Saturday, 19 February 2011
The hotel that goes the extra mile to include all culinary preferences!
I owe Tenerife a huge apology. The thing is, after many visits to Spain and its islands, I became disillusioned with the lack of good food for veggies. Whether it was Madrid or Majorca, Barcelona or Playa del Ingles, I was faced with a barrage of chips and cheese toasties. For this reason, these trips didn't feel like holidays, they felt more like dinner hour in the work's canteen. For me, food is a big part of my holiday as I like to immerse myself in local cuisine, the problem being Spaniards are very carnivorous and don't offer the veggie alternatives that my beloved tapas bars in Manchester offer! However, it was February, I needed guaranteed sunshine so after perusing online reviews and hundreds of holiday brochures, it was decided to stay at the aforementioned hotel, otherwise known as Thomson Sensatori. With numerous restaurants on site and the legend 'all dietary requirements will be provided for', the hotel was immediately booked.
I visited three restaurants during my stay, the Market Grill, Oasis and Pangea and was overwhelmed by the selection. It exceeded my expectation regarding food and managed to have something different every day (I was full board too!).
This is the poolside restaurant open for lunch and while admiring the infinity pool, you can start with either veggie spring rolls or soup (I had neither as I was still full from brekky). Main courses were what I class 'substantial pub grub'- chips with everything from veggie burgers, paninis loaded with guacamole, pizzas, salads, toasties- you get the gist. Portion sizes are generous and keep you full until dinnertime. Dessert is also included in the full board package- a veritable feast of black forest gateau Spanish style (much tastier than English chemically induced from Iceland!), apple tart and for those feeling guilty after the chips, fruit cocktail.
For those on the full board option, Oasis offers a healthy take on the three course lunch (well, apart from dessert unless you get a fruit salad!) With seats both in the sun and shade overlooking the infinity pool, chillout music calming your soul, this restaurant is equipped for both sweltering and chilly days. My starters usually consisted of a hearty soup or fresh salad and I managed to have a different main every day. The food here is quite Mediterranean and always presented with a flourish without any trace of it looking like an amateur tourist hotel- this hotel truly is top drawer. I enjoyed a roast vegetable pasta, a vegetable and halloumi stack, verduras a la plancha (Spanish style roast veg)amongst other delicacies. Desserts here are the same as Market Grill.
Pangaea is a multinational buffet restaurant but don't worry, there are no chavs pushing and shoving here- it's not Playa de las Americas y'know! You can sit inside but it is reminiscent of a service station with nicer decor or outside on the Oriental- style terrace overlooking the koi carp pond. (Can I point out on this note that two chavs did slip through the net here to my amusement, a couple who looked as if they should be on Tool Academy who were throwing bread rolls to the carp. Get back to Butlins thank you very much.)
The selection is so large, it's best I review it as starter, main, dessert.
Two soups, one of which veggie plus a Gazpacho every night. I was in heaven as I discovered one of my fave Spanish dishes. What I like about Gazpacho is that you decide how much ingredient you put in, be it onion- heavy or tantalisingly tomatoey!
Copious amounts of local and -yippee- German bread are provided.
Vindaloo Queen was very happy when it was discovered that an Indian chef is resident, whipping up a spicy storm every night. Bountiful basmati, aloo gobi saag and bombay aloo awaited me. The piece de resistance? Homemade naan! Alongside him was the resident Chinese chef, making stirfrys and noodle dishes to your preference, along with two ready prepared ones. For those carnivores wanting a taste of home, a carvery also gives you the option to have best of British.
Needless to say, Spain was well and truly represented with a huge Paella every night and constantly changing varieties of Tapas- Catalan spinach, pine nuts and raisins tortilla, pimientos de padron and many more tapas bar faves. For those wanting low fat but nonetheless tasty dishes, the salad bar was a riot of colour, offering more imaginative ingredients like jalapenos, Greek chili peppers, olives of every size and shape, a rainbow of dressings plus rice and pasta pre-prepared salads. And that's not all. There are several hot dishes, an eclectic mix of central European, Caribbean and much more, providing a party for your tastebuds! One night I sampled some heavenly sweet potatoes stuffed with cheese and tomatoes stuffed with cheese- brings a new meaning to the phrase 'get stuffed'! Plus, if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed by the riot of spice and fragrance, there are always good old chips, onion rings and meat and two veg for the carnivores!
You mightn't have any room after all that, but try and make some for your tastebuds' sake! Try at least one of the 10 flavours of ice cream. Dive into the chocolate fountain- white and milk choc on alternate nights. Be good and eat a massive bowl of fresh fruit. Show the on-site confectioner your appreciation and eat one of his hand made chocolates (believe me, you will never eat Milk Tray again after sampling these bad boys!) Admire the way the pastry chef arranges his artworks of sweetness on dainty plates, a taste explosion waiting to happen. See my picture above to realise what I mean. If you don't already have a sweet tooth, you will now.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Understated and underrated!
I have been in Manc long enough now to see past the bright lights of the curry mile and know not to take some of these jazzy looking restaurants on face value, after all, there is no such thing as a free lunch. However, I have not ruled out the curry mile entirely, especially when one is expecting guests from outside the city and have heard such legendary tales of the Mile. My guests had come from Liverpool and sadly, the city is somewhat lacking in good Indian restaurants these days. Any newcomers to the Scouse curry scene tend to be of the nouvelle cuisine, yuppified variety with small portions and all the ambience of an overpriced 5 star boutique hotel. Curry is about cheesy decor, twangy Bollywood choons and being as stuffed to the gills as humanly possible! So me and the Scouse ladies were on a mission for old school curry.
The lucky recipient of the VQ posse was Punjab, one of the less glitzy venues on the Mile. Understated yet homely, Punjab hides shyly away behind its larger, better endowed neighbours. We all know size isn't everything, it's what you do with it that counts and believe me, Punjab may be small, but its kitchen packs a punch, giving your belly a night to remember!
To start, I digested complimentary pops with 4 punchy dips, funny how things taste better when they are free. For mains, I diverted from my staples of madras and vindaloo and chartered unfamiliar waters with a bhuna. This was a fab blend of spices, fresh veg and no nasty greasy bits. Surprisingly, it measured up to some of my vindaloos as far as the spice factor was concerned! YUM. To mop it all up, I tried a chili naan for a change (all peshwari and no chapatti make me a dull vindaloo queen). This went down a treat by all my party, Punjab winning a place on the coveted VQ night out curry itinerary.
Now, no review is complete without the constructive criticism bit, right? The food and staff here are faultless so all I have to complain about are the antiquated toilets which are a bit dirty and the cramped restaurant.On the whole though, Punjab made for what was to be the start of a fab night out. Ignore the touts on the Mile and head for this shy beauty!