Category Archives: Food

What Is A Carvery?

A Carvery Is A Very British Thing

Most British pubs these days offer a selection of food to entice visitors through the door, and many also offer a Carvery, because a roast dinner is something that is always popular in the UK.

While many visitors to the UK from overseas might expect there to be pubs everywhere, they might be amazed at the number of foreign restaurants that the country has, especially Indian restaurants, which number in their thousands.

The good old English “Pub” (which is short for “Public House”), used to traditionally be a place where men from the community would go in order to drink beer and gossip over the latest news. However, in the last 30 years, with the drink/driving laws becoming ever stricter and with pubs losing business as a result, plus with people now being able to access news and events via television, radio and more recently social media, the traditional pubs have been forced to change or as has happened with many, they have ended up closing their doors.

Over the last 25-30 years many pubs started to offer food to entice people to visit,  most offering fairly simple food, with typical English fare such as:

  • Ploughman’s Lunch – fresh bread, cheese, salad, pickled onions, relish
  • Cottage Pie – minced beef and vegetables in gravy, baked with a topping of mashed potato
  • Shepherds Pie – same as Cottage Pie but made with minced lamb
  • Steak and Kidney Pie – chunks of steak and kidney in gravy in a pastry crust
  • Toad In The Hole – Yorkshire Pudding cooked with sausages in in, usually served with mashed potato and gravy
  • Lasagne – layers of pasta with bolognaise sauce and cheese

With increasing competition, and with the popularity of more exotic food, some then offered foreign dishes such as curries or other Indian meals, and others opened up full restaurants with a wide selection of meals. Others went in another direction, offering more American style dishes, like Chicken Wings, Burgers and Ribs.

Lately there is a new phenomenon, the “Gastro-Pub”, which is a type of pub that not only prides itself on it’s ales, but on the quality of it’s food. Here you will often find more up market cuisine, but at a price. It’s often “nouveau cuisine”, which to me means food that is attractively presented, costs 3 times as much, but leaves you hungry.

Many pubs are now either changing towards more English food, but a wider choice of offerings, or switching to include a Carvery, which is becoming more popular than ever.

So after that long pre-amble, back to the original question of “What Is A Carvery?”

A Carvery is the closest thing that you will get in England to a Sunday Roast, which used to be a tradition in most English households years ago.

An English Sunday Roast would usually be either Chicken, Beef, Lamb or Pork, served with Roast Potatoes, Roast Parsnips, Yorkshire Pudding (especially if Beef), Stuffing, and a selection of vegetables, usually 3 or more of the following seasonal vegetables, and served with thick brown gravy:

Peas
Carrots
Brussel Sprouts
Cauliflower (often with a white or cheese sauce)
Leeks (often in a white or cheese sauce)
Cabbage
Swede (aka Rutabaga)
Broccoli

At the Carvery, customers form a queue to be served, and the chef carves for them the meat of their choice, usually from a choice of 3 types. If you want, you can have any 2 or all 3 kinds.

You then take your plate and help yourself to the vegetables and potatoes, and back to the table to enjoy it. A carvery meal really does go down well with a pint of good English Real Ale.

Unlike many buffets in the USA, many carveries in England only let you go back once, or if you can go up multiple times, it’s for the vegetables only. Prices for food are higher here in England, so to keep the prices down, they limit how much meat you can take. However, for most people, the amount you can get on one plate is adequate, even for me!

The price for a carvery meal varies, and so does the quality, but paying a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better meal. Prices vary from around £3.50 ($5) to £7.50 ($10), depending on the pub.

Sources:

Personal experience

A Nice Carvery At The Master Builder

The Master Builder, Southampton
This photo of Master Builder is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We had a nice carvery yesterday at The Master Builder which is only a couple of miles up the road from where we live.

The pub changed management a few months ago, and so we thought it was time to see what the food was like there, as we felt like going out for a bite to eat, but with the weather being horribly wet and windy we didn’t want to venture too far from home.

The last time that we went to The Master Builder we left very disappointed, as the vegetables were simpley terrible, being undercooked and in the case of the carrots quite obviously re-heated from the previous day.  Yesterday, however, we fared rather better.

There was a choice of ham, beef and pork, all nicely cooked, with what I can only class as “exceptional quality” Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes for a carvery.

There was a good choice of vegetables, and other than the peas and sweetcorn, there was swede and carrots, red cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and stuffing and gravy.

The place was pretty busy, and as usual we sat in the conservatory area looking out onto the patio/garden at the back of the pub, which was being lashed by strong gusts of wind and rain.

The carvery is a bit pricier than in some other local pubs, but as long as the quality is good and there is a good choice of vegetables you don’t mind paying a bit more for a meal that you know you are going to enjoy.

It was definitely nice to get out of the house, as the weather this weekend has just been more of the usual wind and rain, and we will be going back to The Master Builder in a few months no doubt.


If you are still not quite sure what a carvery is, here is a good article about carveries.

Dragonfly Moroccan Mint Green Tea Review

Dragonfly Moroccan Mint Green TeaIt’s really hard to find my favorite Moroccan Mint Green Tea in the UK, and so I thought I would try the Dragonfly brand of Moroccan Mint when I saw it in my local Sainsbury’s last week.

Dragonfly is a well respected brand of tea in the UK, also I am pleased to see now available in the USA through Amazon.com.

The first thing when reading a description of this tea is to not be put off by it, since the description says:

Dragonfly Moroccan Mint Green Tea is an organically grown, authentic and delicious blend of brisk Chinese Gunpowder tea and refreshing organic Moroccan spearmint. Gunpowder green tea is named after its appearance: the dark green tea leaves are rolled by hand into tiny pellets that resemble gunpowder.

It’s quite easy to get a mental picture of an old man sitting in a back room in Morocco, rolling up tea-leaves into pellets with his bare hands and dirty finger nails.  I am sure this is not how it’s made – well at least I hope not! It certainly doesn’t taste like it, which is a good thing.

The first thing to note here is that the tea comes in a box of 20 sachets, each tea bag being individually wrapped to help lock in the flavor.

Just opening the sacket reveals a wonderfully refereshing waft of spearmint, so your senses already know that they are in for a treat.

I let my tea brew for 4-5 minutes to give it a fuller flavor. Unlike several brands of Moroccan Mint that I have tried, this does not cause it to have a bitter taste, which can spoil the flavor completely.  The spearmint helps to enhance the flavor of the green tea, and the two together are a refreshing blend.

Personally I find this tea to be sweet enough, and don’t feel the need to add sugar to it.

I still prefer my original favorite, Stash Moroccan Mint Green Tea, but the Dragonfly brand comes a close second and is definitely a great tasting tea.

Dragonfly Moroccan Mint Green Tea

Chicken And Chocolate – Not Always The Best Combination

Hot ChocolateI have eaten Mole Poblano before a few times and really enjoyed it.  Pronounced “Moe-lay” not “Mole” like the animal, this is a Mexican dish with slices of meat covered with a thick dark sauce that is made of bitter chocolate and chili.  If you weren’t told that there was chocolate in it, you probably wouldn’t even realise.

However, chicken and chocolate don’t always go together that well as you will find out…

Saturday was one of the first fine days in weeks, actually one of the first since Easter, following which parts of the UK have seen pretty much 40 days and 40 nights of rain.  Indeed it was almost Biblical, but I digress…

Having spent some time working in the garden, then sitting out on our new deck for the first time since it was completed over Easter weekend, Debbie suggested that we order in an Indian take-away instead of cooking something for dinner.

She had seen a new Indian take-away restaurant open recently close to us, and had looked it up online, and found that you could place an order over the internet and they would deliver.

The take-away location belongs to an established restaurant in town, and their web site proclaims:

Winning the Mega Chef award has allowed us to built up a reputation for innovation, pushing the boundaries of Indian cuisine, initiating the revolution of ‘Fusion’ cooking. On our menu you will find dishes inspired by the food of Indian Mughals, as well as some rather unusual creations such as the Zyava, a spicy tamarind and our famous chocolate and chilli dish.

Well it sounded good, and there were a lot of choices on the menu, but no Chicken Dansak which is what I like to order most of the time.

So I chose instead one of their featured specials, the Chicken Zyava, mentioned above and which is described as follows:

Dark chocolate is given a twist of sharpness by tamarind, jazzed by fresh chilli and then soothed with a mellow creamy sauce

Well although I know chocolate is not a traditional Indian ingredient, having previously really enjoyed Mole Poblano, and with there not being anything else on the menu that caught my eye, I thought I would try it.  I love chillis and tamarind too, so why not be daring.

Well the food arrived, early too, but disappointingly the appetisers were not very good, and lukewarm, and the Spicy Chips that we ordered turned out to be like McDonalds Fries coated in something like Cayenne Pepper and were cold and rubbery.

Then on to the main course, only to find that Debbie’s Chicken Biryani was very stodgy, and my Chicken Zyava, well I could tell as soon as I took the lid off the container that I was not going to enjoy this take-away meal.

Hot Chocolate! Everyone is familiar with Hot Chocolate right?  Can you visualise a take-away container, filled with Hot Chocolate and with some cubes of spicy chicken in it?

The smell is what got me first – Hot Chocolate!  It looked just like Hot Chocolate!  Guess what – it tasted like Hot Chocolate!

Trust me when I say that a mug of Hot Chocolate goes down a treat on a cold day, but with spicy chicken… well quite honestly it made me feel queasy, especially trying to eat it with fluffy Pilau Rice too.

Debbie could tell you that I very rarely leave anything on my plate, but this was so awful that I couldn’t even eat half of it, I was beginning to gag.

It’s a real shame, because I like to try new dishes, and I have eaten some really exotic meals in my time, but Chicken and Chocolate – I think I will leave it to the Mexicans…

The Greek Bakery

Green Lanes HarringayLiving in Harringay which is a suburb of North London in the 1980’s was a surreal experience in many ways.

 Although this was England, Harringay is a highly ethnic part of London, and had a large Cypriot population (Greeks/Turks from the island of Cyprus), and driving down the main road (Green Lanes), many of the banks and businesses not only looked foreign, the shop names were in Greek lettering as well.

 We lived about ½ a mile off Green Lanes, and close to use was a Greek Bakery that was one of those that you would walk inside just for the smell.

 They baked Greek breads, pastries and cakes 7 days a week, at a time when few bakeries were open on a Sunday, and it was a great experience to go there early on a Sunday morning and buy some Greek Bread for breakfast.

Greek Bread Their bread was often covered in Poppy, Sesame and other seeds, and it just tasted so good.

 We moved from there to the opposite side of London about 1990 and I have never been back since, so the bakery has probably long since gone, but the memory lingers.

 Being a bread-a-holic, it’s great to see that there are many places these days that specialise in breads for breakfast, and when I head back to the USA to see my daughters, there is nothing nicer to go to breakfast at a place that serves good coffee and freshly baked bagels.