Tag Archives: review

Flora’s Coffee Shop and Tea Room

Mirror (0141)

Update: Please note that as from the 28th October, 2019 Flora’s Cafe is permanently closing down. It will now only cater for private events and tea parties.

One thing I thought I would miss, since moving back to Malta last year was a good place for coffee and conversation, and perhaps for some reading. I’m sure there are a few places dotted around the island where you can do all that, but I haven’t come across anything till now. From this week though, I’m happy. In fact, this post could easily be part 2 in my love Malta series. From this week, my lovely readers, there’s a new kid on the block I like – a place so charming you will want to visit very soon. It’s called Flora’s, a small but beautiful coffee shop and tea room in Naxxar. So central, so on point. At least, for me. With an address like 1, Victory Square, you cannot miss it, and it’s right by the church. That’s exactly where I wanted to go on Friday. They opened on Wednesday, and I wanted to see how they would manage the usual teething problems a new place faces during its first few days.

Continue reading Flora’s Coffee Shop and Tea Room


Ice cream from Borough Market

Ice cream from Trebis in Borough Market (9524)

I can’t believe it’s been more than a week since I posted something on C&T. I rarely miss my post-one-a-week target without telling you about it first. In the past I used to feel guilty – don’t know exactly why – but I tend to be a little picky about this blog. It is my baby. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Continue reading Ice cream from Borough Market

Book review: Gordon Ramsay’s 3 Star Chef

3 Star Chef (9073)

I learn new things every day. From anyone. It doesn’t matter if on the other side of the bench there’s a chef or a home cook who’s doing the teaching. If something makes sense, it makes sense. That’s it. Done deal. I do have lots of respect for people who know their craft; those who have gone through years of classes and training in the best kitchens, with the masters. They took the time to train for excellence. Not a mean feat. They might seem arrogant, and arguably some are, but I would count to ten before saying so. Not all restaurants are the same. And not every chef is the same. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Gordon Ramsay or trying his food; still, through reading his work and watching the man on tv, whether from a restaurant kitchen or indeed at home, I feel I have actually learnt something. Please note that two books by Ramsay have been out on the same date: Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course (Hodder & Stoughton) and 3 Star Chef (Quadrille Publishing). The former accompanies a tv series, and has a very different style. Quadrille were kind enough to send me a review copy of the latter on the day of publication. Without diminishing the importance of eating well at home, cooking in a restaurant kitchen is obviously a very different thing. This book is about restaurant food at the highest level.

There’s no doubt about it: the guys at Quadrille know what they’re doing. Freshly pressed, everything about 3 Star Chef (the mini edition) points to one thing: Perfection…with a capital P. And that’s Gordon Ramsay for you. He needs no introduction, and for those who don’t know who he is, let’s just say that one doesn’t get three stars from Michelin for nothing. This book is Gordon Ramsay. You can tell as soon as you read what he has to say about this project.

First impressions are good. It’s white so it’s clean. The photos are stunning, the food exquisite, so it’s beautiful. There are a few photos of the Chef but this is meant to be a celebration of Ramsay’s accomplishments so far, so there’s definitely a place for them. The first half is glossy and shows off 50 of his trademark dishes at their best, whereas the second half is matte, snaps us out of nirvana, and explains how they are made (step by step, without any extra patronising). What I didn’t do this time is to try some of his signature dishes myself (something which I usually do for completeness), but hey, really, what is there to confirm about the food? There are some dishes which scare me, but others, like the Fillet of red mullet with cod, spring onion and pearl barely risotto, with a sweet and sour pepper sauce, seem attainable enough. At least to cook; I cannot really hope to replicate the presentation. I would also like to try my hand at the Carrot and white chocolate fondant with dark chocolate sorbet.

It’s easy to sort through which recipes one could reasonably try. However, some seem impractical as they need very particular ingredients; this is hardly unexpected in recipes of this kind, and substitutions aren’t acceptable (unless this is already indicated). Others cause logistical problems: what to do with any leftover ingredients. My only concern is the lack of a list of stockists, for those specialist ingredients. Though of course there is always the internet. If you want it, you can find it. Gordon will certainly not treat you like a kid. If you’re capable of mastering these types of dishes, then you probably already know where to get the ingredients from, or at least how to find out.

It’s a book that belongs in the kitchen as well as in the living room. Priced at a mere £20 it makes a nice gift for any Gordon fan. Quadrille have confirmed that this year’s edition has the same content as the signed limited edition of 2007. It just has been reduced in size. It’s not the kind of book I’d normally go for if I was merely browsing in a bookshop. Having said that, now I’ve spent some time reading it I’m not quite so sure.

Rob x

Books I love and Other Things.

I always say that Facebook can be a curse and a blessing at the same time. I admit that it’s a love-hate relationship on my part. Many times it’s all about love though! I wouldn’t be in contact with anyone if it were not for it, especially since I’ve moved to the UK a few years ago. I only wish that I had something like this available when I lived even more far away than that eleven years ago. I love the interaction with long lost friends though I rarely accept friend requests from people I don’t know at all. One thing I enjoy are photo albums (or individual photos for that matter) about food. It’s a feast for my eyes and I love when people forgo everyday takeaways and cook something from scratch. One of these albums belongs to Andrew – a good friend of mine who loves to cook and so loves to eat! I don’t know if he is aware of this, but he lately gave me some ideas for a few Maltese-inspired dishes. I promised that I’ll cook something for him whenever he’s around for a visit.

Andrew was also kind enough to send me his copy of The Nigella Lawson Edition of Stylist Magazine. When this arrived through the post I was positively thrilled. Not only was it full of gorgeous photos and articles, but it also came with some book recommendations at the back. I decided to buy them, not necessarily all at once! I really love books, sometimes too much even for my own liking, and most of the time I regret it. The concept of time just doesn’t exist for me in bookshops, but I regret it more often than not because I rarely purchase books from the stores any more. I buy second hand books these days. They are cheaper, most of the time they are in good condition and hey, it’s also good for the environment. And some books are just not found in the high street anyway. But I digress…

The book I started with is Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Food Critic by food writer and editor Ruth Reichl. I knew who Ms. Reichl was but I never read her. Mistake. What I didn’t know was that Garlic and Sapphires was the third part of her memoirs, although to her credit, one can read this without necessarily reading the other two parts. She is an amazing writer – I really cannot stress this enough. I was immediately taken into her world and her work from the first page. She is not just a foodie. She is a journalist with a capital J, with a true knowledge of food and of life: an expert. I was hooked.

A year or so ago I would never have thought that I would be reading something from a food critic. Never. I thought they were all high-strung stuck-up snobs, moving from one restaurant to the other, pointing fingers at the hard-working chef or sous chef slaving in the kitchen since the wee hours of the morning to get everything set up for lunch in time. I mean, come on, you get paid to eat! Some definitely fit this description, but Ruth Reichl isn’t one of them. I’m no food critic, and to be honest I’m not sure I ever want to be one. It’s a tough job, especially when you work for a high profile newspaper. The politics behind close doors can be unbearable. You really have to love your job, not merely to eat fabulous food, but to go to a restaurant several times in different disguises. When you’re a famous critic with The New York Times you are easily recognised; that’s just the way it is. Reichl says that she wasn’t even in New York yet, when someone pointed her out on the plane. Early on she knew that to give the most objective reviews she had to find a way to taste the food without being who she really was. The staff, judging the book by it’s cover, treated her differently, offering the best when she went to a restaurant as herself while almost doing the opposite when in disguise. If only they knew who they were being obnoxious to! I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when Ruth went out for a meal as Betty, a character inspired by an “invisible” but adorable old lady she met on a bus. It could be a stand alone topic for another book! Seriously, respect for the older generation has gone down the drain.

I should have read Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table first- Ruth’s culinary adventures as a child, but no harm done. I think that this is the most entertaining book out of the three. There’s no question – writing a serious autobiography, memoir or whatever you want to call it, takes guts. It’s personal in nature and therefore it can be revealing. And it’s not only about you, but also about your family, which can make it a bit complicated. No family story is straightforward and you would be in La La Land if you happen to think otherwise. Reichl’s way of doing things is very endearing. She admits to merging two characters into one or changing some happenings here and there, which I think she does mostly for discretion’s sake. I still think it’s ok though. The essence of the story is still present. I laughed so much as she protected both the guests and her own friends at her mother’s dinner parties or at informal gatherings before they tasted the “mouldy” food. I was moved by the way she writes about both her parents and the rest of her family. About their mother, her brother says: “I don’t know how I survived her cooking. She’s a menace to society!” Then she grew up, worked in restaurants, did a fair share of travelling, married and lived in a commune, and together with her friends she opened The Swallow, where she was both cook and co-owner. Everything was not straightforward. She worked hard at overcoming personal difficulties.

In the final pages of Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table Reichl says: “I took the title of this book from the Song of Solomon, which has a lot to say about both food and love.” (This is also known as the Song of Songs.) I am definitely *not* going to go into the theology of it. We will leave that to any Biblical expert out there who might want to give it a go! What we can say for sure is that someone’s background, culture, faith or environment (or lack of, if that’s even possible) does have an influence on the food we grow up with. You can definitely see this in Reichl’s recipes, and in everyone else’s for that matter. In this second part we can see the transition between cook and food critic. As she advances in her work, she builds contacts, meets famous chefs, becomes more known herself, but her personal life goes the other way. Her marriage breaks down, her mother gives her a hard time; life becomes tougher but she faces her problems and admits when she’s wrong. Her trip to Barcelona unravelled an unsuccessful meal and most importantly her feelings. “When I got on the plane, I didn’t really know why I was coming. But I do now. I needed to find out that sometimes even your best is not good enough. And that in those times you have to give it everything you’ve got. And then move on.” A lesson for life. In the meantime I’m searching for Reichl’s other books. I know they will be a treat.

Rob x

Baked Camembert


I’ve been MIA these past couple of weeks. J has been on leave and it’s nice to take a break from the computer screen sometimes. What I’m finding difficult is to get into non-holiday mode again, if you know what I mean. Now who wants to stay inside when the Sun’s shining? Not me! So keeping in mind the holidays, a birthday celebration and of course a certain Royal Wedding, here’s my little gift to you.

This is a sweet little recipe from James Tanner and his recently published book James Tanner Takes 5. It’s one of my favourite books, firstly because it’s got photos for every recipe. I’m just a home cook so you can forgive me for saying that. I also love it because the pages are not glossy, so you can see the pages clearly in artificial light. I hate it when I’m flipping through a recipe book late in the evening and have to adjust the angle of the page because I’m blinded by the reflection of light in my eyes! So for me this is a winner. So please chefs, less gloss, more umph!

This is hardly a recipe; it’s assembly takes seconds but it’s really tasty – if cheese is your thing. It makes great party food and it’s an ideal snack for sharing. To avoid double dipping (I hate that) give everyone a teaspoon and a small ramekin if serving at the table. All you need are four ingredients. How neat is that!

  • 250g camembert (in it’s wooden box)
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Remove any wax packaging from around the cheese and also the wooden lid. Replace the wax paper with a square piece of kitchen foil big enough to loosely wrap the cheese in. Place the camembert inside the foil and again in the box.
  2. On the surface of the cheese score a few lines with a sharp knife and insert the slices of garlic. Sprinkle with thyme and pour over the maple syrup or honey. Scrunch the foil to cover the cheese (remember: not to tight). Place the lot into a baking dish and bake for around 15 minutes until the cheese is soft and spreadable on the inside.

Serve this with some baguettes. Easy!

Rob x