Anything but run-of-the Ruskin Mill

May 12th, 2013 / Posted in General News

As promised, here’s the first of our food guides, hastily written before we stop off and debauch ourselves at Little Chef. Friday night’s food was provided by the cafe upstairs at our lovely venue. Ruskin Mill is, along with a significant number of establishments, run by a charitable educational trust ( – at the Mill, young people with autism and learning difficulties learn practical skills, and the cafe plays its part in that. We, along with one of our mummies, were given a hefty veggie chilli with intrepid side salads. Indeed most of the organic menu is of a vegetarian and healthy leaning. Except the cakes, which delicious as they looked, were forbidden as we are both on diets. It’s worth noting that the cafe isn’t licensed (not that that stopped us).

The folllowing night we dined at Shardana in Guildford (, accompanied by our personal GP. Both traditional and modern (like us), trendy yet family-friendly (unlike us), it serves Italian cuisine with a Sardinian twist, in an attempt to pack them in.  And very large glasses of wine, so we’re struggling to remember what we had. Certainly garlic bread – that’s stayed with us, as it did during the concert that night. PS’s parpadelle porcini had a delicate hint of truffle, but lacked sherry, whilst PS’s tagliatelli al bue certainly went on a while. Altogether a pleasant, if hazy experience.

Last night featured Norwich’s Spice Paradise ( On the surface, it was an amalgam of all that is dodgy about such establishments. Unprepossessing on the outside, the inside plumbs 1970s-style depths, with salmon-pink partitions, suspiciously-stained ceiling tiles, gaudy menus and Gallic facilities (even before we arrived). However, we weren’t there to admire the decor, or even the presentation of the food, which could be described as homely, especially if you’ve seen PS’s cooking. Once we had finished prevaricating and chosen from the selection of North and South Indian dishes, we were in for a gustatory treat. Just goes to show, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor a restaurant by its tablecloths.

Next, a special mention to Gill Munday, who responded to our pleas in our previous post and presented us with a bottle of homemade damson or sloe liqueur – she couldn’t remember which (we wonder why) – at Norwich Folk Club. We can now confirm it was a wonderfully syrupy damson conconction. The gift was made all the more sweet by the knowledge that it was originally intended for Spiers and Boden, but we were delighted to inform Gill that neither of them drink.


Yesterday’s lunch was taken at Smith’s at No. 4 in Oundle ( The food didn’t quite live up to the sophisticated prices, nor match the quality of the all-female service, but it was a pleasant spot in which to break up our Norfolk to Wales marathon.

Supper was cooked by our old friend and colleague John Hymas. Not the threatened veggie chilli (thank goodness) but frittatta accompanied by homegrown purple-sprouting broccolli presented in an Ottolenghi-inspired tahini-based dressing. We allowed ourselves dessert – all the benefits of a healthy dose of homegrown rhubarb were negated by dollops of cream, then washed down with large amounts of ‘Up and Down’ and ‘Spitfire’ in the Duke’s Arms. Look out for John’s pop-up restaurants in Presteigne, and check out his music at

Off to Newtown today, and looking forward to more of you taking a lead from Gill Munday’s example. Bon appetit.



Some food for thought

April 27th, 2013 / Posted in General News

Preparations are well under way for our annual May tour, and alongside bouts of Jane Fonda’s Workout we are adhering religiously to a strict and fastidious diet. In fact, and perhaps despite appearances and rumours, we are a healthy-living and refined duo, and like nothing more whilst on tour together than to compare and swap recipes, and sample the wholesome and vigour-inducing delights of health-food shops and delicatessens. Not for us the hurly-burly of the public house, or the rough-and-tumble of fried chicken salons. We are never more at home than whilst sipping afternoon tea in some refined provincial tea house or hearty farm shop cafeteria (preferably stimulating our intellects with a crossword – broadsheet of course), or perambulating among the wondrous cornucopia of wares and delights of an al fresco market setting.

During the following month, we will be posting up our dining and purchasing recommendations as and when we find suitable establishments on our travels, for your perusal and delectation. We would welcome any suggestions you might proffer, in order to ease our wearisome passage and brighten our otherwise tedious and joyless itinerary.  Purveyors and provenders – should you wish to donate edibles and consumables to our worthy and edifying cause, you will recieve not only our eternal gratitude but perhaps also some token of our indebtedness (in CD format).  We hereby throw down the gauntlet, and challenge you to disprove the adage, and demonstrate by your selflessness and generosity that there is indeed such a thing as a free lunch.

Bon appetit.

Stocking Fillers Album Reviewed

November 29th, 2012 / Posted in Reviews

When Paul Sartin finishes his current tour with Bellowhead, he’ll be back on the road playing small clubs with Paul Hutchinson. The duo have worked together as Belshazzar’s Feast for nearly 20 years, and developed a style that mixes their celebrated sense of humour with some very fine musicianship. This is a Christmas-themed album, but that shouldn’t put you off. More than half of the tracks are instrumentals, with Sartin’s oboe, cor anglais and violin matched against Hutchinson’s accordion on elegant, stately tunes scuh as Coventry Tango or the sturdy, hypnotic Mr Marsden’s Maggot. They make the traditional songs their own, too, with Sartin’s sturdy vocal work joined by choral backing on the elegant Sussex Carol and The Shepherd’s Song, an 18th-century Gloucestershire story of shepherds in a pub. There’s also a comedy treatment of Silent Night – dedicated to John Cage.
Robin Denselow / The Guardian, 15 November (3stars / 5)

Christmas albums come in all sorts of musical shapes and sizes: this one is not exclusively seasonal! Perhaps that’s part of this duo’s continuing humorous take on traditional music. Keeping to the theme, though, there is the much-loved ‘Sussex Carol’ (noted by Ralph Vaughan Williams from Mrs Verrall) – with the Andover Museum Loft Singers on chorus – and ‘Joseph and Mary’ (again, noted by RVW, with Ella Leather, in Hereford – shire). ‘Coventry Tango’ takes ‘The Coventry Carol’ tune as its starting point! And there’s the bonus track – ‘Silent Night’ – dedicated to John Cage: the humour pops up everywhere, although the track only lasts 2 minutes 43 seconds, not 4 minutes 33 seconds, which would have completed the joke!

It is in the instrumental tracks that the musical expertise of these two Pauls really shines. The CD notes (as hilarious as their spoken introductions at concerts and musical jokes) explain that ‘Parson’s Farewell’ here is their third recording of the tune: another cleverly arranged version of this Playford favourite. There is more from The Dancing Master in ‘Playford’s Christmas Ball’: ‘Nonsuch’ (with a chorus of the Russian song ‘Kalinka’) and ‘Jamaica’ (with an added phrase from Harry Belafonte’s ‘The Banana Boat Song’). As with the other tracks, the subtlety of the musical jokes and the excellent musicianship mean that there is something new to hear every time you listen to the CD.

The CD includes two of Paul Hutchinson’s excellent compositions: ‘Bumpers’ and ‘Mr Marsden’s Maggot’, though he (and perhaps Paul Sartin as well) could surely claim ownership of the two arrangements of ‘Green Sleeves’. Paul’s tune, ‘Will’s Jig’ follows ‘The Shepherd’s Song’. Like their last seasonal offering (Frost Bites in 2009), Stocking Fillers will surely, and deservedly, have a ready sale on their annual Christmas concert tour and, indeed, throughout the year.
Derek Schofield / EDS Winter 2012


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