Chorizo and Stilton French breads

Chorizo and Stilton French bread pizza toasties

Chorizo and Stilton French breads
Before

After the Twelfth Night of Christmas festivities and food hangovers, we were left with well over a dozen cheeses from an Argentinian soirée at New Year. What to do with them on a lazy Sunday?

One leftovers fallback plan is a quick French bread baguette pizza, with or without the tomato, but certainly with the cheese. Item one was easy, spinach and Brie (with added red onion slices) in a hot oven for 10 minutes – also a great warmed Croissant filling, and then some sliced grapes and caramelised red onion chutney on top to finish. Item two was an experiment. A successful one.

Chorizo and Stilton Oven-baked Baguette Recipe

Chorizo and Stilton French breads
After

Some thinly sliced spiced chorizo ring was laid atop some halved French bread, a drizzle of garlic and chilli sauce optionally splashed across. Next some crumbled Stilton cheese. Bearing in mind how salty and strong flavoured both cheese and chorizo could be in this case, considering chorizo is more often paired with hard Manchego, it’s worth being restrained rather than generous with the topping depending upon the strength of the Stilton.

To finish, add an optional slice of tomato and a few more sprinkles of Stilton crumbs on top. Barely 5-8 minutes in the pre-heated oven set to a high temperature and the cheese has melted down and the orange-red chorizo fat has spilled its juices too. The melted Stilton pairs perfectly with the crisping oven-cooked Chorizo. Don’t overcook the Chorizo, if sliced thinly you just want it to curl up creating a concave spoon shape holding its leaking oils for the stilton to melt into.

I added a delicate blob of fruity Coriander & Dutch chilli jelly on top but my culinary partner-in-dine preferred theirs without. The chilli jam goes perfectly with the Brie or Stilton, in this case, and can be purchased from Chilli Fundamentals.

The snappy 15 minute dish washed down well with a smooth peppery 2011 Lagunilla Rioja Reserva fine wine, available for around £9. 2011 was a year that created some intense powerful concentrated Riojas.

Other Chorizo and Stilton Recipes

Why not try Broccoli, Stilton & Chorizo tartChorizo and Stilton soupChorizo and Stilton risotto, or Chorizo and Stilton pasta, or make your own ground Beef burger with either Stilton and Chorizo in the burger or layered on top, melting down.

 

Tipping, Gratuity and Discretionary Service Charge

Restaurant Discretionary Service Charge v Optional Staff Tipping

Discretionary Service Charge

I was recently on Talk Radio discussing the disreputable “discretionary service charge” in restaurants and the record of some food establishments of not always passing on the whole amount to waiting staff. Now there are UK Government plans to prevent its automatic inclusion on bills so that customers don’t feel obliged to pay it – particularly if after a bottle of wine or two they have less capacity for even noticing it, and may end up tipping twice and with no guarantee that it will even go to the staff that served them. Wine is not the explanation for the #TipsForJesus trend in the USA of excessively generous tipping running to many times the bill total.

The very phrase, discretionary service charge, seems oxymoronic when it is hardly discretionary or optional – some places use the phrase “optional gratuity included”. The British, especially, may feel driven by guilt to pay it, or by a desire not to make a scene in asking for it to be removed.

A survey by the Daily Telegraph found that 88% thought the practice of confusing discretionary charges should be banned in favour of greater transparency as to who gets what from a tip.

Restaurants taking a hidden service cut

Last year, it was revealed that several well-known chains including Ask Italian, Côte, Giraffe, Pizza Express, Strada, Zizzi, and more, were holding back part or all of customer tips and taking a cut, or charge, or redistributing it, removing the personal element of the tip direct to the staff one is served by. Several of these restaurants subsequently changed their policies after campaigns to boycott the worst culprits. A Unite campaign against Pizza Express attracted 10,000 signatures and saw them drop their 8% admin fee on tips. Giraffe, similarly, also decided to drop their 10% administration fee.

“Research published in 2009 found that one in five restaurants did not pass tips to their staff, yet the vast majority of customers said they wanted waiting staff to receive tips left for them. More than three quarters wanted to see the restaurant’s tipping policy clearly displayed.” – Daily Telegraph

A recent survey by OpenTable found that 87% of UK customers always leave a tip, and which averages 9% of the bill. One could argue that “optional service charges” of 10-20% (typically 10-12.5%) aim to raise staff tips, but when restaurant deductions are taken into account any transparency of motive seems suspect.

HM Government Review into Tipping

After a Government evidence-based review, proposals for change to make tipping fairer for waiting staff and customers alike, are being considered with a further consultation until 27 June 2016, and include:

  • Updating the current voluntary code of practice and putting it on a statutory footing to increase employer compliance
  • Increasing transparency for consumers to make it clearer that suggested discretionary payments for service are discretionary and that consumers are free to choose
  • Preventing or limiting any employer deduction from discretionary payments for service, except for those required under tax law
  • Whether to ban or restrict the levying of table sales charges on staff – a fee paid by waiting staff based on their sales during a shift
  • How to incentivise and increase the prevalence of well managed tronc systems.

“…we want workers who earn a tip to be able to keep it. That’s why I, like many others, was disappointed by the tipping practices of some of our well-known chains. This has to change. Today I’m setting out our proposals to make tipping fairer, clamping down on unfair practices and securing a better deal for the millions of workers in the service industry” – Business Secretary Sajid Javid

Tronc tips

A tronc scheme, originally from the French tronc des pauvres meaning “poor box”, is a pooling of tips for redistribution. They can offer tax efficiencies for staff and employer alike. The Government is keen to see more well-managed tronc schemes in place.

One tip, is to always pay a gratuity in cash, and if using a voucher code or dining club card discount, try to tip on what would have been the pre-discounted amount.

Divine Generosity? Tips for Jesus!

Over in the US, some better-off diners where tipping is more commonly 15-20% anyway, are going the extra mile, and paying-it-forward with large super generous tips of $100-$6,000 with up to 4,000% tips! Often noted as “Tips for Jesus” on the bill, they are not intended to be religious in nature and started out agnostic, though their use and tagging has spread since, with the server’s delight at the huge tips being shared on Instagram and Twitter. The anonymous philanthropist has doled out over $250,000 in tips in just two-and-a-half years.

A photo posted by tipsforjesus (@tipsforjesus) on

Trip Advisor Top Fish and Chips at Grosvenor Fish Bar in Norwich, Norfolk

First for Fish & Chips in Norwich

The Norfolk local EDP newspaper recently reported on an interesting Top Ten of Trip Advisor restaurant reviews in Norwich. To locals, it was probably unsurprising that a fish and chip shop came first, namely, the renowned Grosvenor Fish Bar.

Grosvenor Fish Bar
Grosvenor Fish Bar, Norwich

I once saw a queue of some 100 people stretching back 50 yards from their entrance down the street on Fireworks night.

It has attracted 900+nearly faultless Trip Advisor reviews, consistently rating it 4-5 out of 5 (750+ gave it top marks), ranking it #1 of over 600 restaurants in Norwich!

Fish & Chips have been served for 90 years on the site. You can even bring in your own drink without corkage charges or have your fish and chips delivered to you at the Birdcage Pub opposite. Alternatively, you can enjoy your take-out in the summer and sit on the St Gregory’s green alongside or enjoy the 1940s reminiscent 70-seater vintage decor dining area downstairs.

Hints of humour and twists on tradition have been injected into their menu which includes Bass with Sass or Big Mack, Shark Bites or Loony Toony tuna, from their Specials menu, priced at £3.50-£5.50. More familiar items like battered saveloy sausage, pies, peas, burgers, chip butty, or chips and curry sauce are there too. Vegetarians and pescatarians need to be aware that the chips are fried in beef dripping, as many chefs recommend:

“Beef dripping or lard … is the ultimate chip cooking fat because it gives a crisper, tastier result” – The Guardian, ‘How to fry perfect chips

The limited space in the old building would make offering a separate meat-free fryer option for veggie chips difficult. Salads and steamed fish are on the menu, though. The current proprietor is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales,

The current proprietor is the son of an Italian-born, Welsh-raised, lifelong restaurateur, whose own father also ran a fish and chip shop in South Wales, frequented by Tom Jones. Christian says:

“We try to place importance on service and ambience as much as the food, along with trying to keep prices down”

Ratings summary

  • Quality: 9/10 – Consistent quality without pretension, no ‘posh’ chips here!
  • Choice: 9/10 – Good range of food and drink, plenty of choice
  • Speed: 7/10 – Can get very busy so only let down by its popularity
  • Service: 8/10 – Friendly staff
  • Value: 9/10 – Great value and portion sizes
  • Atmosphere: 8/10 – Downstairs dining takes you back to the War years!

Restaurant details

Grosvenor Fish Bar
28 Lower Goat Lane
Norwich
NR2 1EL

Telephone: 01603 625855

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 11:30am – 7:30pm (or later); Sun: closed

Social Media: Facebook | Twitter

Bookings, Menu & More Reviews

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Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London

Cafe Pacifico, Mexican Restaurant Review, Covent Garden, London

Traditional Mexican fare in London’s West End

We managed to arrive unbooked at Cafe Pacifico, a long-established, former banana warehouse, Mexican restaurant/cantina despite it being 6pm on a Friday and get a table. Within half-an-hour, the place was packed and the bar buzzing. We sat straight down at an, unfortunately, poorly-lit table, the last between the main floor and the people drinking at the bar, waiting for tables. Fortunately, the drinks list was enticing from the well-stocked bar.

Diverse Drinks Menu

Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Pear Ocho Reposado Tequila cocktail

We polished off quick Margaritas and a Mexican CabSav/Malbec (2014) which was very smooth and drinkable, meaning I had 3 fairly-priced glasses (although the size was not mentioned on the drinks menu) whilst my fellow diner had a cold Corona, followed by a house cocktail special – the Pear Ocho (Ocho reposado Tequila with peppery mulled spices, cloudy apple juice, triple sec etc), whilst I finished with an Añejo Tequila. Oh, we also ate!

Good food, but not aspiring to greatness

Whilst there was certainly a great drinks list, the Mexican food was good too. It wasn’t pretentious (dressing-up street or cantina food as a la carte) but nor was it an amorphous merged mess either, which some Mexican chains and low-end independents can be, thinking that piling it high in poor lighting under the shadow of a free sombrero will disguise a lack of originality and care in plating-up. Instead, the dishes were cleanly presented and clearly separated, either on the plate or in accompanying small bowls.

Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican, Covent Garden, London
Quesadilla, Cafe Pacifico Mexican

There were fun sharing options too, with the Antojitos platter for two at £13.75 including Quesadillas, Flautas, Empanadas and crispy crunchy Prawns Tempura in a nice light batter. The Jalapeño Poppers filled with cheese were only mild rather than a medium-hot that I prefer but still tangy with the melted cheese inside complementing the pepper’s bitter skin and breaded crunch.

The roughly £11-each Burrito and Chimichangas, that we had, were both very pleasant. I felt the ground beef burrito had a more robust flavour, but the chicken chimichanga was, nevertheless, fresh and tasty, and a contrast with other stronger flavours. Nothing was too hot (though I perhaps should have asked for optional increased heat and spice), and there were plenty of sides and sauces to dip or daub to add heat or coolness, as desired.

Next time I plan to try the Boquerones Fritos al Chili and the Pan-fried fresh Sea Bass on banana leaves with sun-dried tomato salsa sounds like a fresh option on a Mexican menu.

Postre/Dessert

We finished with Churros dipped in a rich spicy chocolate sauce that had a gentle kick. The waiter spoke Spanish, as did I, so the service was friendly and bilingual; when we needed another member of staff they were easy to get hold of and friendly. The staff looked very busy and quick on their feet. Despite being sat next to a family table with several kids, it was not disturbing as the overall atmosphere was loud and bustling, but not so that you couldn’t hear yourself.

Ratings summary

Quality: Nothing to complain about, nothing to rave about, just reliably good food
Rating 8 out of 10

Choice: Good range of food and drink, plenty of variety including from 20-60% vegetarian options per food category
Rating 8 out of 10

Speed: Quick and efficient serving
Rating 8 out of 10

Service: Courteous and friendly
Rating 8 out of 10

Value: ‘Optional’ 12.5% service charge added to bill even for 2 people dining. Pear Ocho felt overpriced (albeit with ‘free’ mug). 25% off and 2-for-1 selected Margaritas on Sundays &  Mondays (check offer is current)
Rating 7 out of 10

Atmosphere: More of a bustling cantina than up-market romantic dining, great for an after-work do, or birthday party
Rating 6 out of 10

Access: A half-dozen steps up to raised-ground floor entry but no lift or ramp, narrow mobility passage between tables.
Rating 6 out of 10

 

Restaurant details

Cafe Pacifico
5 Langley Street
Covent Garden
London
WC2H 9JA

Telephone: 020 7379 7728

Opening times: Mon-Sat: 12pm-11:45pm; Sun 12pm-10:45pm

Social Media: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Bookings, Menu & More Reviews

Bookatable | MenuGoogle Reviews | TimeOutTrip Advisor | Zomato