A Day at the Zoo

Last Saturday, I had a date. And it wasn’t with my sister, my cat, or a melt-in-the-middle Marks & Spencer chocolate pudding.

Nope. It was an actual date. With an actual man.

But don’t panic; I’m not about to get all yucky and gooey eyed or put my Bridget Jones please-don’t-let-me-die-alone-and-be-eaten-by-Alsations hat on. (Although how great a hat would that be? Would probably be a bit misshapen and feature some suspicious looking stains courtesy of vodka and Ben & Jerry’s.)

I just want to write about the zoo.

Whipsnade Lion

Whipsnade Zoo, to be precise. We only live a few miles away, and whenever I see the chalk lion carved into the hillside I can’t help but smile. In years gone by my mum and dad would pack me and Chlo into the car, buzzing with excitement, and take us to what was basically heaven for mini me with my love of animals and over-priced ice cream. I’d run around with sticky fingers, captivated by lemurs, lions, and llamas alike – there are so many species that you’d struggle to herd your children around them all in just one visit.

My absolute favourite thing was the sea lion show. Barclay, Liz, and Salt (with a little help from their trainers) would have kids and grown-ups alike in hysterics. Barclay in particular was everyone’s favourite: the highlight of the show was him launching himself into the air in a burst of stream-lined brawn, touching his nose to a ball hanging a few metres above the water, and belly flopping back into the pool to ensure the resulting splash soaked as many giggling children as possible.

Barclay, Liz and Salt have presumably long since taken their place in the big ocean in the sky, but the new recruits definitely lived up to their predecessors’ legacy and my childhood memory. The morning show had been cancelled after a few minutes when it became clear the sea lions didn’t really feel like doing tricks – their trainer explained that they never make the animals do anything they don’t want to, and added with a grin that it’s their breeding season at the moment so they were a little sleep deprived. (Cue some confused children and sniggering adults.) But Bailey and Lara had obviously napped before the afternoon show.

Sea lions at Whipsnade

Sea lions at Whipsnade

Sea lions at Whipsnade

They showed us their powerful front and back flippers, demonstrated by playing dead the perils of water pollution, applauded when the audience answered questions correctly, had everyone laughing at their impressions of seals, and floored us with (my favourite) their flipper-over-the-face horror at the idea they might be mistaken for one. (I do an outstanding impression of an affronted sea lion who’s been mistaken for a seal. Ask me about it after I’ve had a few drinks. You won’t be disappointed.) Despite the smaller females not being big enough to recreate the epic Barclay splash when they leapt from the water, Whipsnade had figured out another way of drenching anyone sat in the front row…

Sea lions at Whipsnade

Sea lions at Whipsnade

Hoses. So simple, so very effective. One thrilled boy of about six looked as though he’d not so much been sprayed with a hose but actually dunked in the pool. (His parents didn’t look quite so over-joyed.)

Hot, sweaty, and rather jealous of the hosed-down kids we decided an emergency ice cream stop was a must before we carried on with our sight-seeing.

Mara at Whipsnade

Brown bear at Whipsnade

Otter at Whipsnade

Red panda at Whipsnade

Asian Elephants at Whipsnade

African Penguin at Whipsnade

Wallaby at Whipsnade

Whipsnade is the biggest zoo in the UK. It’s owned by the Zoological Society of London, so works as part of the charity to raise funds for conservation. And no, they haven’t escaped controversy: a quick Google comes up with a shot chimp, penguins killed by a fox, and a chlorine problem that damaged the sea lions’ eyesight last year. So they’re not perfect. But I think Whipsnade care about their animals, and look after them to the best of their ability.

Still, you can’t help but wonder what kind of life they have.

Amur tiger at Whipsnade

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and this one certainly sums up my problem with zoos. Out of shot is a reasonably big enclosure with lots of foliage and climbing platforms, but even with the best will in the world no zoo enclosure can emulate a territory of hundreds of square miles. My date, seeing the photo I was taking, said sadly that it looked like the tiger was in a prison. Excellent sign for the date, not such an excellent sign for the tiger.

But saving endangered species and improving quality of life for zoo animals are sadly not problems that one woman can fix, alone, in just one afternoon. So I stuck my head back in the sand and turned my attention to a problem that could be fixed: my growling tummy.

Having spent the day being big kids, we then popped out for a very civilised grown up dinner at The Greyhound in Aldbury.

The Greyhound, Albury

To Share Or Not To Share

Asparagus and hollandaise at The Greyhound

Sorbet at The Greyhound

Crème brûlée at The Greyhound

Crème brûlée at The Greyhound

A smashing end to a smashing day! (See what I did there? God I’m hilarious.)

Kensington’s Flamingos

On Monday, a project I’d helped to work on won an Institute of Fundraising Award. This came as a rather large shock to me, as those in the know had knowingly and humbly informed me that we most definitely would not win. We were up against baby tigers and Christmas crises. I don’t know very much about, well, anything really, but I’d already mentally picked the baby tigers as the winner. Because they’re tigers. And they’re babies. Baby tigers. Not even the scientifically correct ‘tiger cubs’. No. These are baby tigers. Bonus points for the tugging-at-the-heart-strings factor.

So our lovely little team had graciously – and, as it turns out, rather prematurely – accepted our defeat and gone out to lunch to celebrate our nomination. (It’s an honour to even be nominated, and I’d like to thank my mum, my dad, my mouse mat…)

Kensington Roof Gardens was a highly enjoyable but rather surreal experience.

First off, as the name helpfully suggests, the venue is several storeys above Kensington, so the view’s a bit of alright.

View from Kensington Roof Gardens

It was a trainer-and-jeans-free zone inside.

Sofa Kensington Roof Gardens

Seafood bar at Kensington Roof Gardens

Centrepiece at Kensington Roof Gardnes

Spot the Gemma.

I then had a lovely time stuffing my tummy full of yummyness, and snapping Suze and Hannah’s food as well as my own.

Food at Kensington Roof Gardens

Food at Kensington Roof Gardens

Risotto at Kensington Roof Gardens

Food at Kensington Roof Gardens

Dessert at Kensington Roof Gardens

Dessert at Kensington Roof Gardens

Petit fours at Kensington Roof Gardens

It was only after the Alice in Wonderland inspired petit fours box that things started to get curiouser and curiouser.

I discovered that there’s a fish tank built into the wall where you’d normally expect to find a mirror behind the sinks in the ladies’.

And the garden – presumably due to it being a party venue – made me feel a little bit like Samuel Taylor Coleridge having some sort of laudanum induced hallucination. The best way I could describe it would be as English country meets a kind of watered down vision of Xanadu.

Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens

Kensington Roof Gardens

I really liked this strange little garden. There was something very British about the faux exoticness of it all. We Brits do love our pastiche.

But then we walked around a corner and it got really, really odd.

Flamingo reflection at Kensington Roof Gardens

Guess who…

Flamingo at Kensington Roof Gardens

Nope, that isn’t an ornament. That’s an honest-to-god flamingo. Living in Kensington. On a roof.

Flamingo at Kensington Roof Gardens

There’s something sad about how beautiful they are. And something extremely unnerving about how much they look like artwork rather than living creatures.

Don’t get me wrong, I was very, very excited about the fact that I was going to be able to see flamingos. I was excited about the fact that I was going to work in London, and then popping out for a spot of lunch, and then seeing flamingos. It was the wildlife equivalent of going to a supermarket rather than an independent grocers: a little bit cheat-y but ever so convenient.

And then, when I was done trying to take a photo where the poor creature didn’t look like it had been purchased at a garden centre, came the worry. Then came thoughts of logistics: of space, or lack thereof; of pollution; of loneliness; and – worst of all – of clipped wings and what it would mean to fly and then to never fly again. I felt physically sick when Suze told me the disgusting rumour of a drunken party-goer having thrown one of the flamingos from the roof, to its death presumably, its ornamental life extinguished in a puff of pink feathers and pain on the pavement below.

I hope this isn’t true. I hope they have a lovely existence in their little urban oasis, on their rooftop corner of Kensington. I hope they have as much joy in their lives as they bring to those of the people taking photos of them for their Instagram accounts and their personal blogs.

Positive thinking is quite the power tool in the fundraising world. And you can take it from me. As of Monday, I’m award-winning.

 

 

 

Sensational Butterflies

“Always remember that the past was a lie, that memory had no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end.”

The last few months have all been a bit topsy-turvy in Gemma land. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this Gabriel García Márquez quote and sulking. (By the way, how desolately beautiful is that sentence? One Hundred Years of Solitude is a wonderful book.) But like a butterfly emerging gratefully from an uncomfortable cocoon, I have brushed myself down, stood back up, and got a grip. This mental shakedown would have been much more tedious if it hadn’t been for my oldest and oddest friend, Niki. (More on the ‘odd’ later.) We’ve spent so much time together in our pyjamas of late that we’re becoming a bit like an old married (under-dressed) couple.

Bearing this in mind, we’ve been trying to spice things up in our relationship a little, by wearing proper clothes and and going on adventures. Second in our series of dates that will ruin our hair (although admittedly the humidity was not as drastic a hair-destroyer as the balloons) was a trip to the Natural History Museum’s Sensational Butterfly exhibition.

Niki & I in Sensational Butterflies

(Pause here to nod politely and agree that we make a great couple.)

Parked on the front lawn of the English landmark and tourist hotspot is a decidedly exotic adventure, in tent form. Stepping inside is to step out of English summer and into a tropical garden, bejewelled with butterflies. They hatch from their chrysalises and then float around, charming guests as they go.

Pale Owl and chrysalis at the Natural History Museum

They were everywhere.

Peeking at us from behind leaves…

Plain Tiger

… Perched on colourful snacks…

Postman

… And bewitching visitors when they spread their wings.

Niki and a Great Eggfly

Great Eggfly

We were like two kids in a sweetshop, running around and pointing out an increasingly gorgeous array of the least creepy crawly of the creepy crawlies.

Me and a Paper Kite

Tiger longwings, red lacewings, scarlet swallowtails, blue morphos, postmans, paper kites, and countless other fantastic (and fantastically named) creatures were everywhere you looked. I love the butterflies native to the UK, but these foreigners were just phenomenal.

Paper Kite

Scarlet Swallowtail

Malachite

Great Mormon

As we wandered around the tropical tent, we kept seeing rebellious butterflies breaking the ‘no touching’ rule and landing on enchanted guests, and wondered somewhat dejectedly why no butterfly had found either of us an attractive looking perch. For some reason the stars seemed more likely to land on a child than an adult, and wide-eyed kids were were wandering around with handfuls of butterflies, gently carrying their treasures around to show the grown-ups.

Tiger Longwing

I was pretty jealous of these encounters, because I’m still love-drunk by my new camera’s macro skills. I was snapping away madly, addicted to the level of detail in each shot.

I think this is a Clipper

Red Lacewing

Even when focussing on one tiny thing and one much bigger less dainty thing (hi there) it does a great job.

Common Mormon and Gem

That tent was like snap-happy heaven. Great picture opportunities were just everywhere you turned. If you haven’t been already, then you should go. It’s only a fiver, and it’s so good for the soul. Stand in the heat, listen to the soundtrack of rainforest noises, and let yourself by hypnotised by the butterflies.

Common Mormon

Passion flower

Zebra Longwing

Great Mormon? Not sure

There’s nothing more soothing than nature. But sometimes documenting it can be nothing short of stressful. Still sulking at the butterfly-based rejection, Niki decided that the best way to entice a butterfly was to get 90% of the way to one and hope that her butterfly beau would go the other 10% of the distance. (Yup, just like in Hitch. That well known butterfly documentary.)

Niki

Niki

Niki

A few tentatively paused on her person, but not for long enough to write home about (or long enough for me to take a photo.) But perhaps butterflies prefer it when you play a little harder to get, because while I was snapping away a Great Eggfly landed on my sunglasses.

Great Eggfly on my sunglasses

He was old, tattered, and tired, and – like any weary weather-beaten traveller – was content to rest for a while.

Me and my Great Eggfly

It’s easy when you’re in a place like this to focus – with your mind and with your lens – on the bright and the beautiful; to gloss over the old and imperfect. And I think we’re probably all a bit guilty of doing this in our day to day lives, too. So I’m glad that a tiny, tatty butterfly picked me as a place to temporarily rest his hat, and reminded me in the process that true beauty doesn’t fade, even if stereotypical loveliness is an ephemeral truth in the end.

Hanging Basket Case

The girls and I had a sunny London rendezvous last weekend. I was desperate to see the hanging baskets at the Churchill Arms on Kensington Church Street, and the girls – with much teasing about my horticultural enthusiasm and joking about how much of an anticlimax these flowers would be after listening to me go on and on about them – humoured me.

We walked around the corner and as Sam and Lu saw the pub for the first time I got to enjoy one of my very favourite things: the intense satisfaction of being right. Their previously sceptical faces were lit up like two Christmas trees.

Here’s why.

The Churchill Arms

The Churchill Arms

The Churchill Arms

The Churchill Arms
We decided it was too sunny to spend our afternoon indoors drinking (not something that happens often in England) but what we could see of the interior through the open door was pretty awesome. We’ll have to come back when summer’s over (probably some time next week, god damn it England) and explore properly.

The Churchill Arms interior

Sam and Lu outside The Churchill Arms

When the girls were done ogling they turned back to me and asked “How did you know?!”, clearly mystified by my London pub knowledge. I sort of guiltily mumbled something about something something and looked the other way, before eventually admitting that I’d seen the pub on Gardener’s World. That’s right, boys and girls. I watch Gardener’s World.

It started innocently enough: I was channel hopping and suddenly this gorgeous Golden Retriever appeared, and was wandering around being adorable while the gardening happened, but then before I knew it I was enjoying the plants just as much as the dog. Yeah I might as well just say it: I like to spend my Friday nights curled up with a cup of tea, something chocolate-y, and Monty Don. (On the TV, I mean. Monty doesn’t sit and watch Gardener’s World with me. That would be weird.)

So now that I’ve admitted that I’m a big ol’ loser, I think it’s time for some food.

Prior to the floral fun, we’d been for some raw vegan lunch at Nama. Now I might be a vegetarian (and sometimes a vege-scare-ian) but I bloomin’ love cheese. And eggs. And all the dairy. So I was expecting good things from an artisan raw food restaurant, but my booking for lunch for three at 1pm wasn’t my only reservation.

But as soon as the starter arrived my doubts disappeared.

Guacamole at Nama
Holy guacamole was this stuff good. Guacamole is one of my very favourite foods, and I have eaten a lot of it. I mean A LOT of it. But the guac at Nama. Oh. My. God. How good was it? Let’s just say if I fell into a vat of it, and had to eat my way out, I wouldn’t be sad.

Guacamole at Nama
The girls are just as snap happy as me, so while Sammy was checking she’d got the shot I was shovelling guac into my mouth like a woman possessed. 

Sammy
Thankfully there was enough for everyone and fighting to the death wasn’t necessary. (Just as well, cos who’d want to fight this face?)

Lulu
When we’d finished eating forkfuls of guacamole (which by the way is totally acceptable restaurant behaviour when the guacamole in question is that good) the main attractions arrived. We’d ordered tactically so we could share everything. 

Lasagne verdure (layers of Pomodoro sauce, herbed nut, seed and yellow pepper cheese, pesto and marinated spinach served between courgette ‘pasta’ strips) which was sort of like chewing your way through heaven.

Lasagne Verdure at Nama

Lasagne Verdure at Nama
Zucchini pasta (spiralised Zucchini noodles served with Pomodoro sauce, sundried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, caramelised onions and olives) which you might think would be less tasty and less filling than normal pasta but you would be oh so very wrong.

Zucchina Pasta at Nama
… Which came with zucchini pasta paparazzi.

Zucchini Pasta Paps at Nama
And Thai coconut curry (cauliflower, courgette, red pepper and leek marinated in sweet chilli sauce, served with a coconut curry, kohlrabi rice and pickled fennel) which as well as being delicious was also the best looking curry I’ve ever seen.

Thai Coconut Curry at Nama
Having chewed our way through all of this deliciousness we were stuffed like three turkeys at Christmas time (albeit artisan raw vegan turkeys), but when the waitress asked if we wanted to look at the dessert menu, who were we to say no? And when that dessert menu had something called a ‘sweet treat selection’ we basically had no choice but to order it. 

Sweet Treat selection at Nama

Sweet Treats at Nama
Even the bill (incredibly reasonable by the way) was presented nicely inside this cute wicker box thing.

Bill at Nama

So yes, I would highly recommend Nama to anyone, whether they be vegan, vegetarian, or an avid meat eater. Having paid up and sipped our last sips of the never ending supply of cucumber water, we skipped off into the sunshine (or perhaps more accurately, limped and groaned into the sunshine, clutching our tummies) and headed to the park via the Churchill Arms, for more gossip and some ice cream in the sunshine.

Gem with ice cream

I have missed my daily fix of these two wonderful women more than I can say in the last year. More adventures soon please, ladies!

Me, Sam, Lu

 

Buttercups and Butterscotch

If you know me but at all, then you’ll be aware that I have a teensy tiny bit of a sweet tooth. And when I say  “sweet tooth”, what I really mean is, don’t be so foolish as to leave any kind of sugary treat within pouncing distance of me unless you want it to end up in my tummy. My ‘guilty’ face is so well worn that it’s starting to fray around the edges a little.

You’ll probably also know how I feel about wild flower meadows. (Hint: I love them almost as much as chocolate.)

So when my parents decided to go hunting for orchids near to my favourite pub in all the world, I was ready and waiting by the front door before they could say “Would you like to come?”. If I’d been a dog I’d have been holding my lead in my mouth and wagging my tail into a blur.

Mum works for the Berks, Bucks, and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), which means the rest of us regularly have to come home from our less magical jobs to hear about her day spent cuddling fox cubs, or perhaps dissecting owl pellets, and generally having a lovely time. She’s based at College Lake – an old chalk quarry turned nature reserve and haven for wetland birds – but lately we’ve been exploring BBOWT’s smaller and further afield reserves.

We arrived at Bernwood Meadows in glorious sunshine, just before my tummy started to growl for its mid afternoon snack.

Bernwood Meadows
I wandered off into the yellow haze in a daze. Mum and Dad were very happy to see so many of these bad boys…

Early marsh orchid by Colin Sturges at Okewood Imagery

… (early marsh orchid photo courtesy of Dad, check out more of his stuff here) but although I really do like orchids, there’s something about yellow flowers that really gets to me. Rape, buttercups, sunflowers, daffodils – I’m not fussy, so long as it’s all yellow.

Buttercups at Bernwood Meadows

Gem

Gem
But there was also some green to entertain us. As well as enough buttercups and early marsh orchids to shake a stick at, there was a rather eccentric looking fellow wandering around, nose to the ground, clutching a net, looking for Forester moths.

Moth enthusiast at Bernwood Meadows

He was pleased as punch to have seen seven of the little creatures that day. I’d never seen a Forester before, so tripped back to the gate to look at the information sign again, so that I would have an idea what to look out for. Just on the off chance, y’know?

It proved pretty helpful.

Forester moth at Bernwood Meadows

In reality, the little fellow was probably just using the sign as a windbreak, but Mum and I were in absolute hysterics at the notion of this moth model (mothel?) posing patiently next to their own bill board, faux-nonchalantly, waiting for the appearance of its hoards of screaming fans. (The official term for such a phenomenon is, obviously, Beetlemania.)

When we were done laughing, we decided we were definitely hungry. We found Dad (a harder task than you might think, as he was lying flat on his stomach trying to get the orchid shot he wanted) and persuaded him that there was nothing for it but to head to Murcott to find something yummy at The Nut Tree Inn.

The Nut Tree Inn, otherwise known as my favourite pub in all the land, is charming in every way possible.

Nut Tree Inn
Nut Tree Inn

Nut Tree Inn
Fish at Nut Tree Inn

Inside, the charm offensive doesn’t let up.

Sticky toffee at Nut Tree

The interior is pretty special. The low rafters are decorated with bank notes from different currencies, and comfy sofas sprawl across the place in all their leathery loveliness. (Bad vegetarian.) But let’s not pretend that the décor is the main attraction. The Nut Tree has a Michelin Star and it’s not afraid to use it.

This, my friends, is a sticky toffee pudding with a caramelised apple tart, praline ice cream, and butterscotch sauce. Otherwise known as one of the best things my taste buds have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Nut Tree
At one point, to savour the wonder for as long as possible, I was sipping contentedly on my green tea, and one of the staff asked me if I had finished. I just laughed. There was no way I was going to be finished until my plate looked as licked clean as this…

Licked clean plates at The Nut Tree

Full of sugary sweetness, we headed back to the car, but were waylaid by a blonde bombshell. She had curly hair, a beaming smile, and her name was Honey. She was just my type.

Gem and Honey
Cockapoos are, in my humble opinion, second in cuteness only to labradoodles. It was very upsetting to have to say goodbye, after falling in love at first sight. But we took our tummies full of toffee and our hearts full of Honey, and we said goodbye to the Nut Tree.

Nut Tree Inn

But, like a sticky toffee terminator, I promise I will be back.

 

Piccadilly Dinner Date

There’s something about London on a summer’s evening; something magical. It’s the perfect time for romance.

So I took my favourite blonde out to dinner.

Chloe
My gorgeous little sister works at The Cavendish Hotel and I (predictably) love the food. I’m also a
big fan of her staff discount. 

I met her after work, and feeling dog tired and starving hungry we settled down in the Petrichor restaurant and dived into the pre theatre menu. (Not that we were planning on going to the theatre. We just wanted to be in bed by 9pm. Because we’re super-duper cool.)

I was so happy when the waiter appeared with the bread basket and a selection of flavoured rape-seed oils that I think there may have been tears in my eyes. (I have an unhealthy obsession with their olive bread, and a [possibly quite foolish] rule of eating minimally before a meal I’m really excited about which has the unfortunate but unsurprising side-effect of making me a bit hysterical while waiting for the food to arrive. Poor Chlo.)

Bread and rape seed oil
Chlo’s a big fan of vegetarian food, so we decided to order to share so we could try double the dishes. I was drawn to the asparagus tips with quails egg and truffle hollandaise sauce like a hungry little hollandaise-loving moth to a flame. Just. Look. At. It.

Asparagus with hollandaise sauce
I can’t find the words to explain to you how good it was. I’ve been trying to put my food critic hat on and describe the subtlety of the taste, the creamy richness of the truffle hollandaise mixed with the sweetness of the “dehydrated grapes” (raisins, surely?), the cooked-to-perfection asparagus – but I’m salivating to the point of being tongue-tied.

And Chlo’s choice was just as delicious. Beetroot cannelloni, with creamed goat’s cheese, honey roasted walnuts, mascarpone cream, and an edible pansy flower to boot.

Beetroot cannelloni
Looking at that beetroot cannelloni without being able to eat it is making me whimper. If you ever need to torture me for information without breaking the law, then I highly recommend you withhold snacks for a few hours and then show me food photography at dinner time.

After the starters our sharing plan temporarily failed, because we both wanted the spinach and goat’s cheese bake too much to entertain the idea of only eating half of one.

Spinach poached egg and goats cheese
It arrived in all its glory, on a wooden board, accompanied with a breaded mushroom, and with a poached egg perched on top. There was smiling. 

Chlo
Like a kid unwrapping  a Christmas present I could barely contain my excitement as I gently cut into my egg…

Poached egg and spinach
… And was unsurprised to find it golden, runny, and perfect. (Excuse me for a moment while I stare at my screen with an enraptured expression I normally reserve for Ryan Gosling.)

The money shot
After thoroughly enjoying the first half I started to think that it was perhaps a tad too rich, and a smidge too salty. But I like rich. And I like salt. So it wasn’t in any way a deal breaker for me.

Sis and I knocked back some water to compensate (party animals!) and ordered something rather promisingly named a ‘chocolate avalanche’. And at this point, I need to apologise. Because the chocolate avalanche arrived in a perfect sphere of chocolate-y ganache-y wonderfulness. It was a thing of absolute beauty. It was perfect. And then the waiter asked if we’d like white chocolate sauce with it. This was obviously a mad question, and of course we would. And I should have taken a photo as he poured the sauce. Because the white sauce flowing over the chocolate sphere was exquisite. But mainly because, seconds later, this happened.

Chocolate avalanche
Which is exactly what was supposed to happen, from a taste perspective. The sauce softened the ganache enough for it to melt a little so we could more easily access the pistachio ice cream and honeycomb pieces nestled inside. The word ‘avalanche’ should have been a clue! But from a photography perspective, this was all a bit of a disaster.

Chlo however was not at all traumatised by my photography-based-failings, and was rolling up her sleeves and raring to go.

Chlo
So we stuck our spoons in. 

Chocolate avalanche
And it was good. It was so good. It was say-it-in-your-best-Jim-Carrey-voice ghuuuuudddd

Chocolate avalanche
And in a twinkling of an eye, it was gone.

Clean plate!
Clutching our stomachs and groaning under our breath, we went home, and were in bed by 9pm. Success.

 

Cornish Calories

As well as my (highly dubious) theory that calories don’t count when you’re on holiday, I also have an inkling that everything tastes better. Maybe it’s because you’re happy and relaxed (maybe it’s because you’re in denial about not gaining weight) but whatever the reason, I always enjoy food more when I’m away.

And the food in my favourite holiday spot never disappoints.

First off, let me take you to Fowey. The little town is a few miles from our slice-of-heaven cottage on the beach, and it oozes charm at such a rate that even short visits have the dangerous potential to melt your heart into a little puddle of gloop. My favourite place for brunch is no exception.

Welcome to Pinky Murphy’s.

Pinky Murphy's
You can bring your dogs inside, but you must leave your grumpiness at the door.

Pinky Murphy's
Once inside you would be forgiven for wondering if some kind of retro bomb had recently detonated. The telly might be showing surf videos, or old Tom and Jerry cartoons. The sofas are a hotchpotch of different shapes and colours, and the tables are named after musicians rather than numbered. And there is stuff everywhere. It’s a beautiful mess.

Pinky Murphy's

Pinky Murphy's
We plonked ourselves down at Bob Marley and ordered our elevenses. You can just glimpse the little galley kitchen behind my dad’s smile (it’s hard not to smile in Pinky’s!) which was expelling a steady stream of mouth-watering-ness.

Dad in Pinky Murphy's

The tea arrived…

Mum in Pinky Murphy's

And then the teacakes!

Toasted teacake and jam

Sis and I were two happy bunnies at this point!

Gem and Chlo at Pinky Murphy's

Toasted teacake and jam

In fact, I may have enjoyed myself just a tiny bit too much…

Gem the jam fiend
That’s my not-even-a-little-bit-embarrassed smile.

Still feeling a little bit peckish after that huge pot of jam? A dinner visit to  Sam’s on the Beach over in Polkerris will soon fix that, if you can bear to drag yourself away from Fowey. (If not, Sam’s have a restaurant in the middle of Fowey too.)

Stop to stroke this handsome chap if you see him on your way in…

Ginger Cat
…And then come on inside. My dad’s even holding the door open for you, look!

Sam's on the Beach
Sam’s was the Polkerris lifeboat station from 1859-1922, so the back wall is a huge window showing a fantastic panorama of the harbour, and the ceilings are high enough to fit the old Fowey lifeboat inside – and to make me with my love of space and light very content indeed.  

Sam's on the Beach

Mum at Sam's on the Beach
The décor’s pretty lovely, too.

Sam's on the Beach

Sam's on the Beach
Sam’s is a seafood restaurant but they do a damn good pizza, so no matter what floats your boat or tickles your fancy, perusing the menu is bound to make you smile – as demonstrated nicely by my mum who was positively beaming at this point…

Mum at Sam's on the Beach
We ordered bread and marinated olives to share for our starter (and my family forgave me for eating more than my fair share of the green ones)…

Olives at Sam's on the Beach
… And then I got down to business with this bad boy.

Pizza at Sam's on the Beach
The artichoke hearts, aubergines, olives, onions, tomatoes and rocket topped pizza went down a treat, until I was feeling decidedly stuffed. But it’s a well known fact that human beings have a separate stomach for dessert…

Beachboker Glory at Sam's on the Beach
That, my friend, is magical mixture of ice cream, chocolate sauce, cherry sauce, and marshmallows, named a Beachboker Glory. Calories? Never heard of ‘em.