Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Wild Goose

There are a lot of pubs in Canterbury.  It is whispered that you can visit a different watering hole every day of the year and still have more to visit.

Despite this, there actually aren't that many bars.  There are a few good ones; Bramleys, The Shakespeare Wine Bar, Abode Champagne Lounge and the newly opened Pound that I have yet to visit, but very few decent cocktail bars.

Wild Goose is a much needed addition.
Located inside one of my most favourite places in the world, The Goods Shed farmers market (amazing food, brilliant drink and the most wondrous butchers, greengrocers and fishmongers, general store, restaurant, cheesemakers, charcuterie, wine shop, bottle shop and much, much more), Wild Goose is a brilliant addition to an already impressive local lineup.  The Goods Shed itself is an old railway goods shed, next to Canterbury West Station and is the place that is, in my mind, solely responsible for making Canterbury the foodie paradise that it is today.
I have bought my parents, grandparents, friends and random strangers I met on the train back from London here for a bite to eat and a drink.  Steve has stopped off to pick me up a pork and pear sandwich (my favourite sandwich in Canterbury) from Jonny the sandwich man and dropped it off to me in the theatre in Whitstable before now for my dinner during a get in.  For years, we always got our Christmas turkey box from the Butchers, until it occurred to us that there were only two of us eating, and a whole turkey plus all the trimmings may have been a little excessive.
I get excited from the moment I pull into the gravel crunching driveway and scout for a parking space.  Sometimes you get lucky and there are masses to choose from; other times less so and you need to circle around the block and come back.  Keep circling, it is worth it.  You climb up the ramp through the sage green great shuttered doors into the hall and are bowled over by a complete onslaught on the senses.
The first thing that hits you is the smell; the bouquet of a thousand good things mingling in the air, creating an ambrosial perfume that is unique to the Goods Shed.  Next there is the colour; natural woods, vibrant vegetable greens, reds and oranges, dried hops hanging from the ceiling and whitewashed paint.  Finally the people, people of all ages and backgrounds browsing the goods, eating food that was plucked from the market stalls minutes before by the restaurant chefs, laughing at the high tables over locally brewed artisan ales from Murray's or agonising over which cured hams to choose from Patriana Charcuterie (always choose the ham that is cured and cooked in the Goods Shed - its one of the many reasons the place smells so good!).  In the spring and the summer the doors are flung open to the side and people sit at tiny tables out on the terrace hobnobbing with the world. 
One cold evening, Stella, Sinead and I met up for cocktails and prosecco at Wild Goose.  By this time the market had closed for the day, and all that was left were tables of people munching their way through the fresh food offering.

Wild Goose is owned by Lucy Proud, a local Kent girl who trained and worked as a chef in London before setting up home in the Goods Shed.  The menu is tapas inspired, perfect for sharing, and they also serve (I'm told) a mean lazy weekend breakfast.
We were there for cocktails and a catch up.  We slung our bags on the convenient hooks under the counter, debated snuggling into one of the fleecy blankets available and grabbed three high stools at the counter.
All the cocktails are Lucy's own creation, including the Hay Fever, a delectable mix of Jim Bean, elderflower, mint and honey and a concoction she conjured up especially for the Canterbury Players when we were performing the play of the same name after Sinead promised to drink her own body weight in gin to say thank you (Shay is already a massive fan - she blogged about it aaaages ago.  I'm just a bit slow on the uptake).  I chose a Gosling (gin, dry vermouth, elderflower syrup and lime) whilst the other two got started on a light, sparking prosecco.  All the cocktails are based on floral, quintessentially English ingredients; indeed, Lucy designed the cocktail menu around the idea of an English garden with the use of herb infused spirits and flower syrups.  It works wonderfully and reads like a dream.
The cocktail was lovely, fresh, well balanced and lightly tart (although I would have liked a little extra lime juice as I like my cocktails to have a real sour kick behind them but that is just personal preference).

The waiting staff were, for the most part, attentive.  There was the occasional slip up with a forgotten order, but it was quite busy and all the cocktails and food orders are made from scratch, so you must expect a bit of a wait.  In all honesty, the setting is divine, so why would you want to rush?
The liquor cabinet is well stocked.  I would quite like a lot of those gins in my own stash! The eagle eyed amongst you will recognise the Anno Gin distillers that I featured in my Canterbury Food Festival post nestled on the shelf.  I'm drooling just thinking about that gin, it is so nice!  That is a marmalade gin right next to it, and Ciroc and a Chase.  I approve, heartily.
There are lovely details about this bar that make it really stand out for me.  Firstly, the location (with the exposed brick work, rafters and the great, ornate Victorian windows that rattle with the passing trains) is just my idea of heaven.
Lucy has added some art deco touches to Wild Goose, particularly with her glass work and counter lamps which add a touch of elegance to the place.  It has an utterly relaxed vibe about it, you would be equally as comfortable in a pair of jeans, hunters and wax jacket for a post hack pick me up, or a little black dress for pre-dinner and theatre cocktails. 
Wild Goose is open until 9pm from Tues-Sat and until 4pm on Sundays (closed on Mondays), so it is a great place to come for a quietly one (or a raucous one if you are anything like me on a couple of drinks) and get your evening off to the best possible start.  It's a blissful assault on the taste buds and senses.  Why not visit it this weekend and try it out for yourself?
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Thursday, 15 January 2015

The Reading Nook: Caitlin Moran

The first time I picked up and started reading How To Be A Woman, I got a bit of a girl crush.  I'm sure I'm not the only one either.  Caitlin Moran, part of the influential twitterati who occasionally, nervously, lets her 11 year old daughter take control of her feed, is the voice of a generation of women who aren't exactly your 1950's housewife women, but also are not the stereotypical man-hating, bra burning militant feminists of the 1960's and 70's.  She represents a middle ground, women who just wanted to be treated with the same amount of respect that men, for the most part, are automatically granted, without having to jump through hoops of fire.  She is the voice of women who quite like being able to vote, be a CEO and also secretly dream of baking the perfect loaf of bread (Bake-Off has a lot to answer for).  She gives life to all those thoughts and insecurities that women have about work, family, looks, weight, sex, alcohol, drugs, clothes, abortion, boyfriends, music, periods, fashion, pea-cocking and the quagmire that is adolescence at a time in your life when all you want to do is scream 'look at me, I'm important' and the rest of the world says 'that's nice dear' and returns to its adult conversation.
Not only that, the woman is astoundingly funny.  Laugh out loud, 'Steve you've got to let me read this section to you' funny.  It's described as the book that every woman should read, won the Galaxy Book of the Year Award and tipped the best seller lists.  I think part of that is due to Moran's signature, chatty, girls over a glass of wine writing style. Her command of the English language is masterful - she can be as flowery as a meadow in summer when she wants to be and is not afraid to swear like a docker.  Her descriptions can be graphic - the accounts on her giving birth and her abortion are particularly moving and had me squirming uncomfortably in my seat.  Her complete bafflement with expensive handbags and thongs had me nodding in agreement.  Her awkwardness at her first real job had me howling with laughter.

Is How To Be A Woman a feminist book? Well, yes, of course it is, but only in so much as explores what it means to be female in modern day Britain and then challenges that.

Should all women read this book? Yes. Should all men?  Hell yes. If anything, it may give you a bit more of an understanding as to why we flip out when we have nothing to wear.

I loved How To Be A Woman.  I couldn't wait to read Moranthology.  If How To Be A Woman is Moran's humorous mantra, then Moranthology are her sermons.  A collection of her best columns from The Times, sandwiched together with musings over topics that didn't quite fit into the How To Be A Woman structure (like the conversations with her husband Pete, who is drifting off to sleep moments before Moran gets her newest bolt of lighting, need to discuss it right now moment).  The problem with Moranthology is that you are reminded on a regular basis just how extraordinary a life Moran has led thus far.  A published writer, TV presenter and music critic whilst still in her teens, she has interviewed (and partied) with music's royalty, been late to interview the PM and downed gin with the poster children of TV and film.  She is still only in her 30's.  Makes you a bit sick.  
David Ellis
All through Moranthology though, you get a much stronger feel for who she is as a person and how she is as part of a strong family unit.  You get the feeling that, no matter who you are, she will quite happily plant down, spark up, pour out two large glasses and natter away with you until the small hours.  She is endearingly human and you get a sense of that no matter if she is talking about Lady Gaga lying down drunk with her head in Moran's lap in a sex club in Germany or playing with her kids on a beach in Wales before going for a picnic. 

Her observations are not just over the convoluted and sometimes ridiculous plot lines of Downton Abbey (the ability of a maid to kill the unborn Earl of Downton with a bar of lilac soap was a particular favourite of hers) or which Ghostbuster you should dress up as, but also offer a compassionate and frankly much more honest look at the some of the more serious issues facing society, such as the real life implications of benefits cuts on those families who truly need them (from the voice of someone whose family relied on those benefits when her father was unable to work) and her strident belief in the value of our public libraries 'a library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind; hospitals of the soul; theme parks of the imagination. On a cold rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer, but a citizen instead'.  You can read her full libraries column here
Levon Biss for The New York Times
If you are a regular reader of Moran's columns, a lot of the material in Moranthology will be old hat to you, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get a copy.  Hell, the Keith Richards interview is worth the purchase price of the book alone (currently £6.29 on amazon, or about £4 for a kindle copy).  If you love How To Be A Woman, you should also read Moranthology, although it is very different, and not as strong as her brilliant debut, it will still have you laughing out loud.

Her latest offering, the semi-autobiographical How To Build A Girl is now out as well.  I'm off to get a copy.

If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my facebook group or twitter!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Cathedral Island

This post is a 'lil bit late. I thought I had finished with my Polish posts from our mini break, and then found a load of pictures that I had forgotten about!

So here, without further ado, I present to you the very last Polish post from Wroclaw.
Wroclaw is not exactly a very big city - as mentioned it is spread out over a number of small islands, but everything is pretty easy to get to by foot and it is one of the best ways to explore.

On our last full day we had a few places on our checklist that we wanted to go and see, the first being the Wroclaw City Museum, approximately a 2 min 43 second walk from our hotel. Located inside the Royal Palace, the former residence of the Prussian kings, the museum boasts an impressive exterior.  The exhibitions were moved here in 2008 from the old City Historical Museum, and still houses the oldest museum project in the postwar history of Wroclaw. There are four major exhibitions; 1000 years of Wroclaw History, The Royal Apartments and Beyersdorf Room, The Gallery of Art in Wroclaw from 1850-1945 and The Gallery of Art in Wroclaw from 1945-2000. There are also temporary exhibitions.
We arrived and went to pay our entrance fee. Which was a whopping nothing. Yep, you read that correctly - entrance to all of this was completely free.  Apparently all the City Museums are free entry, which includes The Museum of Bourgeois Art, The Museum of Cemetery Art, The Archaeological Museum, The Military Museum and The Museum of Medallic Art.

We went to put our jackets and bags in a locker so we were more comfortable moving around the exhibitions. That was also free.  This was turning out to be an expensive day.

You did have to pay for the audio tours (we didn't get them) which cost 15 zloty (about £3) and the Temporary Exhibitions when they are on (10 zloty or £2). You can also purchase a personal tour guide for the grand total of 400 zloty if you so wish (£80). This place is not going to break the bank.

The exhibitions are varied and interactive, with digital displays providing facts and figures in almost every room. All information is in Polish, German and English, so it was easy to understand throughout. Photography is allowed throughout (I checked), providing the flash is off.
We were incredibly lucky when we went and the place was almost deserted! There was a large group about 4 rooms behind us at all times, but we essentially had every room to ourselves. You learned about the history of Wroclaw through the ages through artifacts, maps, religious iconography and portraits, and then moved into the royal palace itself and the royal rooms
The Yellow Living Room of Frederick Wilhelm III (1770-1840) was used from the 25th January to the 22nd April 1813 during the war with Napoleon and saw some significant historic events taking place, including the proclamation of the Iron Cross on the 10th March 1813. 
The Beyersdorf Room was my favourite of all the exhibitions, and came from a house on the Salt Market (number 19) which was owned by Adrian Boegel (born 1674), a textile merchant from Hamburg.  It is a brilliant example of a European-wide fashion to go nuts with tiles.  If you were a tile maker in Europe in the mid 1600's, chances are you were laughing all the way to the bank. The tiles in this one room alone show 279 different Biblical, marine and country motifs, with the country motifs shown in big circles and/or on the entire surface of the tile.
You then moved into the Art galleries, with artwork from the late 19C to modern day. The earlier work, up until 1945 feature pieces which are connected with Wroclaw.  Names synonymous with German turn of the century art are showcased, including Max Wislicenus, Eugen Spiro, Ludwig Meidner and Adolf Dressler. Two themes dominate; the Lower Silesian mountain landscapes and city views. The style of work varies between the post-romantic and expressionist movements, and the nouveau-term (according to the Museum's website anyway.  You should know by now that my knowledge and attitude about art ranges from 'ooh pretty colours' to 'don't like that'. That's about it).
The above is an example of my 'ooh pretty colours' reaction.

The latter gallery showcases the post-war artists of Wroclaw including Eugeniusz Geppert, Eugeniusz Get-Stankiewicz, Maria Dawska and Józef Hała who were colourists, landscape painters and expressionists.  There were also naked bottoms.  Lots and lots of naked bottoms.
The final floor finished the Wroclaw Through The Ages exhibition with posters from the 1960's, as well as some very unusual costumes!  
Unsurprisingly, there were also pieces commemorating the Nazi occupation of Poland. It felt very strange to be taking photo's of some of the Nazi memorabilia, but that time period was especially devastating for Poland, and I feel that it is important to remember and honour that.
We spent a good few hours exploring the museum, incredible value for the entrance fee!

Our next stop was Wroclaw's Cathedral Island, Ostrow Tumski, the original settlement site for the Slavic Slezan tribes' first stronghold, surrounded by the river Odra. At the turn of the first millennium, King Boleslaw the Brave earned the favour of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III and established a bishopric in Wroclaw. The first Cathedral was built on Ostrow Tumski and has continued to be the centre of religious life in Wroclaw.
In his research, Steve had come across a number of places that said that Cathedral Island had a unique atmosphere - calm, peaceful and tranquil, so we started to walk in its direction, with the idea of finding a small coffee shop once there and relaxing for a while.
To get there, we had to cross the Tumski Bridge, a vibrant blue steel bridge built between 1888 and 1992, and one of the oldest river crossings, connecting Cathedral Island to Sand Island. It is a popular destination for lovers, who attach padlocks to the bridge wherever they can find space and then throw their key into the river. There are thousands of padlocks here, attached to the bridge and each other, some with the lovers names written on them or messages of love, others with strips of fabric from wedding veils tied to the lock or other novelty items (including a rubber duck). There is also a padlock seller who will be only too happy to sell you one for a few zloty if you haven't bought your own.  The romantic in me likes to think that every couple who has ever attached a padlock to the Tumski Bridge is still living their happily ever after.
Once on Cathedral Island itself, there was a distinct shift in atmosphere. There were a few parked cars but no traffic at all; it was so peaceful and quiet. Wroclaw is a clean city in terms of litter and rubbish, but here there was no graffiti that marred so many other buildings, no litter, no fallen leaves, no bollards and very few streetlights.  It was spotless.  People were moving along the streets, conversing with priests that moved amongst them or heading to the Cathedral for religious observance.  It genuinely felt like a whole other world compared to the bustling market centre.
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist itself soars at the far end, twin spires reaching to the heavens.  The original Cathedral was built in 1272 and like so many European Cathedrals, has seen a lot of renovation due to fire and bombs over the years, and was almost completely destroyed during the 2nd World War and reconstructed in 1951.   No pictures from inside the Cathedral I'm afraid - just take my word that it was beautiful!
There are a large number of residencies on Cathedral Island next to the Cathedral for various religious dignitaries, including the residence of the Archbishop of Wroclaw.  I have to say, as far as a work commute goes, he really doesn't have a bad deal! 
We strolled around the Island for a while, and stopped at the Botanical Gardens (which were closed for the winter but are apparently beautiful in the summer) before heading back over the river.
Walking back, we continued to play 'hunt the dwarves' before queuing for dinner at one of the best pizza's I have ever eaten in my life at a little pizzeria on the market square.  It was enormous, delicious and about £8 for the two of us. 

The next morning, before we flew home, we made a final stop at a traditional Polish restaurant for breakfast.  Pod Gryfami is located on the market square, and like most properties, is deceptively large. It goes back for what feels like miles, and there is even a secret tunnel entrance in the basement to the underground tunnels, blocked off by a large grill gate (the restaurant uses it as a wine cellar).  Inside, it is the very definition of grandma kitsch, with low velvet seats, floral tablecloths and stained glass windows.  The food is good though, and this was one of the only places we found where we could get a proper breakfast (pancakes with fruit, yoghurt and honey)!
Steve discovered the perfect plaque for his desk in the office as well.  We relaxed here for a while, whiling away the time until we had to go and find a tram and then a bus to take us to the airport (surprisingly easy and significantly cheaper than a taxi).
So, if you are thinking of a Christmas mini break next year, why not give Poland thought?

If you like (or hate!) what you have read, please do let me know in the comments below or slap me with a cheeky follow, or say Hi to me on my facebook group or twitter!