The Hayloft Restaurant, Boycott Farm – Stowe

Reviewed on October 12th, 2014 by Dina

A year has passed by fast and with another bambino in our group, it was that time of year for an annual outing with friends. After a wonderful morning at the National Trust Stowe Landscape Gardens, an Afternoon Tea was our indulgence.

A short drive from the gardens, Boycott Farm was the where the Hayloft Restaurant was located. The Hayloft Restaurant is on the upper level of the converted barn. Wooden beams, fairy lights and hay pictured tablecloths make this a magical dining area.

Vintage style rose patterned teapots, teacups and saucers started off the Afternoon Tea. The Traditional Tea was plentiful and there was enough for a few cups of tea for the whole afternoon. Three tiers of triangle sandwiches, scones and cakes made up the food selection.

Hayloft RestaurantHayloft Restaurant InteriorHayloft Restaurant EntranceHayloft Restaurant TeaHayloft Restaurant Tea and SconesHayloft Restaurant Afternoon TeaHayloft Restaurant SconesHayloft Restaurant CakeHayloft Restaurant Farm ShopStowe Landscape GardensStowe Landscape Gardens 2Stowe Landscape Gardens 3

Cheese and cucumber was on white bread and the ham and mustard was on brown granary bread. The ham was Boycott home cured and went well with the mustard mayonnaise. Thick cheese slices and slices of cucumber was the other classic sandwich.

The scones were fresh, big and had a good amount of fruit in them. These came with deep dishes of homemade strawberry jam and clotted cream. The perfect combination of scones, cream and jam; a mouth watering treat!

To complete the Afternoon Tea, the top tier had slices of Victoria sponge cake and rich fruit cake. The cakes were moist and had a lovely flavour. As the Hayloft is part of the farm, the produce and food is of top quality.

One thing to note is that the Hayloft Restaurant does accommodate for gluten free diners. The Afternoon Tea is available with gluten free sandwiches, scones and cakes with no compromise on the taste.

The staff were really friendly and gave us great service with a smile. They allowed us plenty of time to enjoy our Afternoon Tea and the whole afternoon was very relaxed.

It is hard to resist all the fresh produce, savoury and sweet pastries, vegetables and cakes in the farm shop on the way out from the restaurant.

A special day out was had with all of us. Precious friendships are strong no matter how many years go by. This quote says it all  “Friends are like stars. You don’t have to see them to know they are there”. The Hayloft Restaurant made for the perfect place for the gathering and a delicious Afternoon Tea.

The Hayloft Restaurant, Boycott Farm, Welsh Lane, Stowe, Buckinghamshire, MK18 5DJ

Rating: ★★★★★

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La Brocca – West Hampstead

Reviewed on September 22nd, 2014 by Dina

It had been many years ago that I had been to La Brocca and I remember it to have been a lovely restaurant. It was going to be interesting to see if it would still be just as good this time round. The hope was that it would be especially as it was a belated birthday meal for my friend.

La Brocca is split into the bar and the restaurant, with the bar on the street level and the restaurant on the lower level. The restaurant entrance is separate and it is down the steep stairs. The bar was heaving the evening we went and we had to squeeze past the customers to get to the restaurant entrance.

The staff welcomed us into the restaurant and we were given a table towards the back of La Brocca. The restaurant was fairly dimly lit and it looked that the outside area had been decorated with lots of greenery and plants.

La Brocca Pumpkin RavioliLa BroccaLa Brocca PizzaLa Brocca InteriorLa Brocca Mint TeaLa Brocca Interior 2

Pizza and pasta was our meal for the evening and it was all freshly cooked. The staff were really friendly and let us customise the San Remo pizza into a vegetarian one. Originally, the San Remo pizza had toppings of baby spinach, mushrooms, egg and Parma ham. The ham and the egg were replaced with roasted red peppers and onion. A crisp base, an intense flavoursome tomato sauce, lots of vegetables, all topped with fresh baby spinach made this a perfect pizza.

Big pillows of the fresh pasta ravioli were stuffed with the orange pumpkin and served steaming hot. The sauce was made of plenty of juicy cherry tomatoes and was fairly spicy. The sweet soft pumpkin was a great contrast to the spicy heat of the sauce.

Fresh mint leaves steeped in hot water made the mint tea. It was served with slices of lemon.

La Brocca was just as good as it had been many years ago and it seems like this restaurant is a timeless place. It does simple no fuss Italian cuisine with big bold flavours and great freshness.

La Brocca, 273 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London, NW6 1QS

Rating: ★★★★☆

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Maroush Bakehouse – Earls Court

Reviewed on September 12th, 2014 by Dina

A full Lebanese breakfast was on the cards when seeing the menu at Maroush Bakehouse. It seemed like it would make for a nice savoury brunch. It was slightly surprising that when the breakfast was served, it was mainly bread based. On the menu, the items were described as baked pastry. Nonetheless, it was still all cooked fresh and was tasty.

A mini Zaatar Manakeesh was soft bread topped with thyme and sesame seeds. Similar to this was the vegetarian Lahem B’agine with the same bread base but with a cheese topping. Both of the breads were freshly baked. The grilled halloumi was cooked perfectly and it went well with the Zaatar Manakeesh. To make the breakfast a little lighter, there was the strained yogurt dip of Labneh. A small pot of olives and a bit of salad made the selection complete. A basket was warm Lebanese Khobez flatbreads was also served.

Maroush CoffeeMaroush BakehouseMaroush BreakfastMaroush KhobezMaroush Hot ChocolateMaroush Bread DisplayMaroush InteriorMaroush Interior 2Maroush Cake Display

The decaffeinated Americano was really smooth coffee. To end the brunch, it had to be something sweet. Even though there were lots of cakes and pastries, the hot chocolate was chosen. The hot chocolate was not too rich but creamy enough. It was nice that the staff were able to make it with soya milk.

Maroush Bakehouse provides a really relaxing atmosphere. The staff let you sit and enjoy your food. They don’t make you feel pressurised into ordering more food or drink. The staff had the balance just right of being attentive and good service yet leaving you alone to enjoy your time. The dining area felt clean and tidy as the staff made sure everything was spic and span once diners had left.

Displays of a variety of breads, cakes and biscuits adorn one side of Maroush Bakehouse. It was nice that the bread loaves that were on open display were on the higher shelves and all the cakes at the lower levels were in covered boxes. It made the place feel hygienic. The dining area is clean and spacious and there are not too many tables. Behind the cushioned seating area, there is the glass wall decorated with orange strip lighting. Not only did it make for great decor but looking closer at it, it revealed the actual bakery area.

As it had got to lunch time, there were people ordering lunch items. The aromas and the sights of the lunch items looked delicious. Tempted by other people’s orders and realising that Maroush Bakehouse do takeaway, it felt right to take some food home for later.

Firstly, all the food was cooked fresh to order and the portion size was big even of the mezza items. The Lentil Soup was creamy and delicately flavoured with cumin. Batata Harara consisted of potato cubes cooked with garlic, sweet pepper and chilli.

A couple of favourites, even though everything was delicious, were the Moussaka and Shish Taouk. Aubergine, tomato, chickpeas, onions and peppers baked together made the Moussaka. It was more like a stew and it made a change for it not to be a cheese or cream based moussaka. Succulent charcoal grilled chicken cubes made the ever so moreish Shish Taouk. All of the takeaway food was wonderful. So many great fresh flavours made for a tasty evening meal.

Maroush Bakehouse specialises in its freshly baked goods and cakes but also does some of the tastiest Lebanese food. It is a perfect place for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Maroush Bakehouse, 131-133 Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9RQ

Rating: ★★★★☆

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