The month of January has certainly passed us by quick. I hope there wasn’t to many of you with post Christmas blues… I know for sure that alot of us chefs will be relieved that it is over. I personally love it, the whole build up through December. Christmas parties coming in, people out shopping and carolling – it’s a fantastic time of the year. Yes I’m one of these people who has the dec’s up at the beginning of December with the outside of my house twinkling in fairy lights. But, alas, it’s done now for another 325 days. New Year was another busy night for us at The Dolphin. It saw us transform into a 1920’s soiree. Guests came head to toe in the clobber to suit the decade with the ladies looking fabulous in their feather boas. Never to stay quiet for long at The Dolphin we were once again asked to provide the catering for T&A Hotel Collection at The Country Club. A selection of hot goodies took their place on the buffet table. Grilled salmon fillet with roasted courgette, peppers and olives. Maybe some Moroccan style pork meatballs with giant cous-cous. The showstopper was the BBQ beef ribs. The cut known as jacobs ladder – these were beasty pieces of meat. Smothered in my own spicy BBQ sauce, these really went down a treat.
Luckily it’s not all work and no play. The second week of January saw some of my family and I spend a week in a log cabin in a forest. It wasn’t far from home but far enough to know that you are on holiday – a much needed post Christmas holiday. Lots of walking ensued which, yes, included me getting stuck and falling in the mud – on out first day no less. Needless to say it got better!! It was the second year we had stayed there, the same week, the same cabin and it snowed on the same day – both years, so that was a nice touch. It was good to get away but work was calling, albeit a small whisper from a very quiet January. Never mind…. Canada in May!!
Back to work and time to start on the new menu. Some great new dishes are available from the menu. A popular and equally quick to cook is our mussel and clam linguine. With some pre-cooked linguine this dish is ready in five minutes flat. One of our vegetarian dishes is a small shortcrust pastry pie filled with broccoli, kale and parmesan, served up with a thick and crispy potato rosti. To appeal to as many as possible a vegan dessert is on offer to finish your meal. Banana bread with pecan ice cream and toffee sauce – all vegan. Coming up with new and interesting vegan dishes is thing I find most challenging about my job. I really try to go out of my way, and the rest of the team do, to come up with a dish that isn’t your run of the mill poached pear. I like to push it a bit more than that. I always have dishes available on every course that are vegan friendly and gluten free. I think in todays age you run the risk of harming your business if you aren’t offering something like this.
With the new menu up and running it really is a case of waiting for customers to pass through the door. Being a coastal restaurant during the depths of winter is a really grim place to be. A busy lunch time in January might be feeding 20 people compare that to the 300 covers on any day in August you can see why it can be a bit mind numbing sometimes. But during these quiet time it gives you a chance to play about a bit with food. Try new things, play around with recipes, and bake your favourite cake!! Carrot cake for me… you really can’t beat a nice slice of moist, spicy, over-iced carrot cake. So one quiet shift that’s exactly what I made, not only made but put a hefty dent in it too!
With it being so quiet in Thorpeness this time of year we close the restaurant on Mondays. That gave us chefs perfect opportunity to head to the big smoke together last week and sample some fine fare. We headed to Covent Garden, The Ivy Market Grill. Quite the meal it was too. When out eating at other places, especially those that are accredited with such food, I like to have something from every course. The silkiest chicken liver parfait started things off for me followed by melt in the mouth shoulder of lamb with roasted vegetables, mustard crust… it was simply superb! An apple tart finished the meal off complete with ice cream and flambeed calvados poured over the top by the waiter. I even treated my self to a nice glass of chablis too. Everybody else’s food looked amazing too. This will be my new go to place, if they have space, when I am visiting London (which I seem to be doing alot at the moment). The prices really are reasonable considering where it is…. for us 3 courses plus drinks was around £45 each, not bad at all in my opinion.
Thorpeness is sometimes lucky enough to hit the headlines, whether it be a rare bird from Minsmere landed on the common or an over exaggerated weather phenomenon, this sleepy village makes the headlines. Unfortunately last month it made headlines for the wrong reasons. A gentleman’s life was sadly lost as he walked along the beach one Saturday afternoon. Every year the cliff take a battering from the sea, this year however it has seemingly done more damage in a month that it has in the 16 years I have been in the area. For this reason the cliffs have been very unstable. The gentleman was buried under a cliff that collapsed on top of him whilst he was walking his dog. This was such a freak accident and something that left the community shocked. From my self and on behalf of The Dolphin we send our deepest sympathy, I’m sure that this is echoed through the whole of Thorpeness.
On a brighter note, our extension has finally started work. It has been a long time coming but we are happy to say that it has finally began. With work expected to take 10 weeks we have our fingers crossed that it will be open in time for the Easter holidays. Exciting times ahead for The Dolphin. There will be lots of updates on The Dolphin social media so keep an eye on that.