Dinner at Verzon House – Perfect Pancakes & Sweet Treats

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I’m quite happy to dine alone. I supposed my camera keeps me company. Years ago I did some work for the EA touring the Kent coastline surveying beaches. That was a good job! Although everything was paid for, and they were quite happy for me to claim expenses for a full evening meal, pretty much every evening I grabbed a salad from Waitrose and ate it on the beach, in my car, or in my hotel room. I used to think that people might think that, as I was dining alone, I’d already eaten dinner at home and then sneaked out for more food!

Of course I know now that nobody would think that, and even if they did, stuff ‘em, I like my dinners!

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On my second night at Verzon House I dined, happily, alone. I choose the Caramelised Onion, Broccoli & Pine Nut Pancakes with Roast Garlic Velouté, which turned out to be a fantastic choice and much more detailed and exquisite than I thought a pancake could ever be.

Broad beans, garden peas, spring onion, raddish, pea shoots, samphire (one of my most favourite foods!), asparagus, yellow courgette and a sweet garden pea puree.

Soft pancakes filled with rich, creamy blue cheese, broccoli, red onion and toasted pine nuts, served with such a lovely assortment of green goodies.

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You know I don’t like peas? Well, these ones were more than acceptable.

I’m usually put off by the thought of savoury pancakes, especially since Adam told me how as a child he was offered a pancake, and thinking it would be full of sweetness bit into it, only to find it was loaded with Brussels Sprouts!

I followed this healthy pancake delight with Dark Chocolate Crème Brulée with Fruit & Nut Ice Cream. 

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Cool, creamy fruit and nut ice cream perched atop a crisp choc-chip chocolate biscuit, sitting on a crisp sugar crust, perfectly thin and caramelised. Beneath this delicately breakable layer, a creamy, smooth, moussey chocolate custard, with just the right density. Rich, but not sickly. Sweet, but not sugary. Dense, but not claggy. Is claggy a word?

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Mixed together the flavours of the nutty ice cream, dark chocolate creme and crisp caramelised crust, were delicious, sweet and satisfying. Plus it didn’t send me sugar blind! Nice work Head Chef C Mc D!

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Thank you Verzon House for yet another enjoyable and delicious meal!

Two Perfect Nights at Verzon House Hotel, Ledbury (2 of 2)

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I slept heavily. It was a quiet night in a peaceful hotel. I went down for breakfast and ordered Hedonist Bakery French Toast with Knightwick Streaky Bacon. I overheard a couple talking over their Full English’s, ‘The fish looked a bit sick, so he pulled it out of the pond and shot it in the head,’ she read from the paper, as the man went and sniffed the marmalade. All was well in the world.

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Later on in the bar I got talking to the breakfast couple, Paul and Hazel, who were highly entertaining and kept me up until 2.30am. Another great thing about Verzon House is that they will keep the bar open for residents as long as required, and of course, their bar is well stocked with such delights as Chase Marmalade Vodka and Elegant Gin.

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I love the feel of Verzon House, it’s a stunning old farmhouse built with an incredible vista over the Malvern Hills, embracing the great style of it’s era whilst bringing in modern classics too. What I really like is the feeling that the place is reconnecting with it’s surroundings and bringing the farm back into the heart of the house. Fresh herbs sit potted on the dining tables, paintings depict pheasants and deer, and the kitchen uses the best local produce to the most excellent effect.

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It’s only ever been sunny when I’ve visited Herfordshire, so I’ve always been very lucky with the weather, but I can imagine it is beautiful here all year round. In the snow it must be really stunning. I think I’ll have to go back in the winter and check though, just to be sure!

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Verzon House is such a relaxing place to stay. The staff are so friendly and helpful (Hola! Gemma, Loren, Sophie and Imogen) and it really does feel like home from home. Plus I think it’s the perfect party place.

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Verzon House Hotel is situated in the village of Trumpet, just outside Ledbury in Herefordshire.

The rate for a Suite (like the one I stayed in) is £150 per night, for two people, including breakfast.

Thank you to the superb team at Verzon House for the most lovely stay, again!

Dinner at Verzon House – Tasty Burgers & Perfect Puds

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I spoke to a charming elderly gentleman in the dining room at Verzon House. He reminisced about the previous owners generosity towards him when his wife had to go into care. He told me how grand the dining room had been, with it’s polished wooden tables, how there was always warm bread and butter, small squares of smoked salmon sandwiches when you ordered a drink at the bar, and how the double G&Ts were actually double doubles. He also said that he had to forget all of that. This is a lovely new place, a different place, the food is still wonderfully good, and the other place is just a memory.

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We talked across the empty dining room before our meals, and the other diners, arrived.

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I had the  The Verzon Burger, Triple Cooked Chips, Three Cabbage Coleslaw. It arrived, attractively presented on a mica slate, the chips in a cute little pan, and everything a little bit too neatly balanced for my fat hands and need for mayonnaise.

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The two little white dishes contained the coleslaw made of savoy, red cabbage and carrot, with a peppery aftertaste, and a light salsa with the unmistakable flavours of fresh runner beans, red onion and olive oil.

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In their sweet little pan sat the big fat triple cooked chips, with a gently crispy exterior and a white soft centre.

The battered onion slices, like tasty onion petals, were perfect (and, I think, preferable to onion rings) – slightly salted batter, crisp and light, encasing sweet juicy white onion.

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A beautifully seasoned and sweet Hereford beef burger sat beneath two slices of ripe red tomato and some simple green lettuce, in a soft white glazed bun which was topped with sesame and poppy seeds. The burger had a gently sweet and sticky caramelised outer, having been glazed with a local real ale caramel and cooked to perfection on the Josper Grill.

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For pudding I couldn’t resist the Tonka Bean Panna Cotta with Poached Cherries. I’ve had Tonka before, a couple of years ago, in the Czech Republic, but the language barrier didn’t allow me full understanding of what I was eating, and the enjoyment soon overtook the need to know. Then I forgot to look it up.

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Like a stronger tasting vanilla, Tonka beans are related to peas and look like shrivelled and rolled rabbit droppings. According to Wikipedia the use of Tonka beans in the food industry is banned in the US. Oooo!

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Still, I enjoyed the most deliciously creamy and smooth Panna Cotta I’ve ever eaten. It really was perfect. The Tonka flavour is sweet and rich without being overpowering. The balance with the alcohol laced poached dark cherries really was quite delightful, and I managed to eat all of the velvety goodness, of course!

Thank you Verzon House for a delicious meal, Head Chef Callum McDonald, you’ve done it again!

Two Perfect Nights at Verzon House Hotel, Ledbury (1 of 2)

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My day has gone from forcing a chicken to be sick, to overseeing metal fabrication and lugging rusty lumps around, to my current position of relaxing in a big squishy bed nest at the beautiful Verzon House Hotel.

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I’m back in Trumpet. Perhaps this is my spiritual home. I think so.

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After a long ol’ sleepy drive to Ledbury, and a busy day of pointing, carrying, and pointing some more, I am delighted to be resting my head on the soft satin cotton pillowcases and enjoying the light breeze through the open sash windows.

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I also very much enjoyed listening to a big fat Ferrari drive off just now. Warrrp, warrrrp, warrrrp, through the gears. I don’t think he was giving it enough welly though.

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I’m in the newly appointed Room 1 (just across the corridor from the room I stayed in on my last visit). It’s a whopper. When Lauren brought me up and opened the door we were both stunned. The new owners are working their way through the hotel, updating and redesigning everything, and this room has had the treatment. I’m it’s lucky first guest, and I am being very careful!

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I think we have the same carpet in our house, but we don’t have a freestanding bath in our bedroom, a huge walk-in closet or a toilet set in a deep alcove with a motion sensor light above it.

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The shower is immense, the bath is relaxing, but the toilet unnerved me a little!

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You know, I’ve stayed at Verzon House before and loved it. I remember the big squishy bed, I’m sure it was the nicest bed I’ve slept in. I also remember that I couldn’t get wifi in my room and had to spend a lot of time in the bar with my laptop for company, but now there’s very good wifi and I’m drinking tea and surfing the net from the big squishy bed. Hooray!

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The room is lovely, calm and clear. Subtle tones. Perhaps in need of a painting on the big, smooth wall, or a full length mirror, that’d be most handy. There’s everything I need here though, and there are nice touches like the little handmade biscuits and the different books and magazines in each room.

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I noticed some other changes in the House too: the lights in the restaurant are different, the hall and stairs are newly carpeted and the amazing french chandeliers I’d been told about now hang gloriously in the stairwell.

It’s so lovely, I’m glad to be back.

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Verzon House Hotel is situated in the village of Trumpet, just outside Ledbury in Herefordshire.

The rate for a Suite (like the one I stayed in) is £150 per night, for two people, including breakfast.

Thank you to the superb team at Verzon House for the most lovely stay, again!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship – Blyton Park (Round 6 & 7)

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The weekend went by in a blur of sunshine and smiles.

On Friday night we arrived late in Scunthorpe having met with roadworks and Burger King on the way. Of course we’d booked in to the Wortley House Hotel. We dumped our bags in our suite, the Queen Bess (I know, they treat me well!) and headed off to the bar for drinks with Alan, another Lotus driver who was staying at the hotel.

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Emma had sent me a message to let me know that she’d had her race suit sent to my hotel and for me to bring it along on Saturday. When I asked at reception they had no idea about this important package. There was concern that the courier may have got the wrong address, Wortley House Hotel were often receiving deliveries for the Warley House nursing home. I pictured confused elderly people being dropped off by accident at the hotel. Then I pictured The Stig in a wheelchair razzing about on an Axminster carpet. My levels of concern rose when I considered the possibilities of incontinence and the impact this might have on Emma’s enjoyment of the weekend. Luckily, I found out a bit later that there had been a right old cock-up and a replacement suit was going to be delivered to Emma at the track. Phew!

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We got up early, ate our breakfasts (the Crunchy Nut Cornflakes were much more sickly than I remember them) and headed over to Blyton Park. We were greeted by two massive hares, sunshine and loveliness.

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We signed on and all the drivers got given a special mug  printed with ‘Westfield Sports Car Club  – Blyton Sprint Weekend’. That’s the only cup I am going to get my mitts on at a motorsports event!

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We walked the course, had the drivers briefing, and then it was time to get on with the practice runs. I thought I’d have a slight advantage as I’d been to Blyton Park a couple of months ago for a driving course, I did recognise the track and I did have my bearings, but because I’d not been using the whole track to learn on (we did different exercises in different areas) I wasn’t as hot to trot as I’d thought I might be.

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It was an amazingly hot day. We sat in the shade and chatted over lunch. Emma organised us all, Xav made barbecue magic and I had a bun with both bacon and a sausage in it.

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Time for the timed runs, I made some stupid mistakes, like putting it into 4th instead of 2nd gear, (bloody idiot!) but on my 2nd and 3rd timed runs I struggled with getting it into 3rd gear and I think that was down to the heat, not my foolishness.

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As I was wandering around looking for Adam, I bumped into Xav’s wife Rachel, ‘He’s just gone on the grass!’ she said. Well, it seems he did go on the grass, yes, yes he did. He went off the track, flat-out, onto the grass, then he was launched from a small hump, all four wheels off the ground into a field of wheat, where he disappeared from view. Some moments later he emerged from this grassy other dimension with a small harvest in his front grill and shot over the finish line, still faster than everyone else!

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I can’t believe I missed it. Adam recounted it so clearly that I can picture it well, and it makes me smile!

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I was lucky enough to be up on the bank with the other spectators to see Duncan coming through the finish line though, almost sideways, one way, then the other, then the other! He did really well to control it. The crowd even cheered and gave him a round of applause.

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Dave says that all he sees is Tarmac and danger. Looking at this photo (above) I can understand that!

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In the end I managed a time of 88.82 seconds, just 0.74 seconds behind the next driver, and 9th out of 9. I wasn’t disappointed though, I really enjoyed myself and was excited for the next day.

We went back to our hotel and met up with Rob and Sarah for dinner. They brought me a cool little nodding turtle from Turkey. I like it. It seems we are always at the Wortley with these guys, even though none of us live nearby!

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Later, when Adam was sleeping, I popped into the main hotel building to see if I could borrow a pen and I was hit by a wall of sound. Agadoo. In Scunthorpe. For a minute I was allowed the marvellous thought that this was the most popular choice tune for a party night out in town and that everyone was living in a pineapple and palm tree clad timewarp. Then I was told it was a school reunion, I was a little bit disappointed.

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It rained heavily on Saturday night, all night. We slept well in Queen Bess. When I did wake up I could hear passing cars splashing heavily through deep puddles. We ate breakfast and headed back over to Blyton Park.

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Up at Bunga Bunga (yes, that is a great name for a corner!) an army of slugs had invaded the track and were in the process of making a slippery trap for us all, probably so that they could send us off and rob us for spares.

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The Westfield’s all went out first and cleared the slugs, but I was hesitant on my first practice as I thought the track might still be wet, slimy and/or sluggy. My first practice was slower than Saturday’s, but my second one was over a second faster than my best time on Saturday – that was promising.

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Sarah (a super ace driver who joined the LoT gang this weekend) showed me the video of her lap. I sat in the back of her trailer and felt like I was on location with the BBC, or MI5 surveillance. Her driving was speedy and smooth. She went home with two trophies.

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I wore my balaclava under my helmet for the first time this weekend and it was great. I had thought that the extra layer would make me warmer, but it actually made things more bearable. Unfortunately it makes me look like Mrs Potato Head. I told Rob to look away other wise he’d get a craving for chips.

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On Saturday I got talking to a driver called Heather, and her dad, with whom she shared a 306 Rallye. They were really lovely, he seemed like such a nice dad and was really proud of his daughter. Proper family man. On my last run, I drove through the finish line, saw my time, felt chuffed with myself and looked up at the bank of spectators to see them both jumping up and down cheering for me! So lovely.

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We stayed for the prize giving at the end of the day, and I did my best clapping. I’m very pleased with my own improvements, not particularly against the other drivers (although I am always surprised that I am anywhere near the times of anyone else) but against myself. I ended up with a best time of 85.48 seconds, 7th out of 9 and dead chuffed.

It was a wonderful weekend. I’ve met so many lovely people. Everyone is so friendly and tolerant of my bad jokes. How lucky am I?

(These many photos of cars were all taken by Adam. Good work Adam!)