My Mana’eash (Lebanese flat bread) was a definite hit, topped with spicy Armenian lamb sausage, halloumi cheese and tomato.
A beautiful Victorian house set within immaculate landscaped gardens, the stately home shone magnificently in the late afternoon sunshine.
As we took our seats on the terrace, a waiter brought champagne and offered a selection of teas as we tucked into chocolate-covered strawberries, delicate finger sandwiches, beautiful pastries and miniature scones with clotted cream and a choice of preserves.
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My partner had been dreaming of a juicy steak since visiting the Royal kitchen earlier in the day and, despite plenty of other temptations, couldn’t be swayed from a rare 8oz hunk of rump.
The polenta chips (covered in parmesan) and primavera salad (peas, broad beans, rocket and asparagus with ricotta and Sicilian orange dressing) were as good as they sounded. The Bentall Centre is a modern arcade packed with shops to suit all tastes, and with a giant John Lewis, the Eden Walk Shopping Centre and all the top high street chains, you’d better arrive with a giant bag of gold coins.Back in Kingston we’d worked up a Henry VIII-sized appetite and we were definitely spoilt for choice.Just 12 miles from central London, this historic market town has undergone a rejuvenation in recent years and now presents itself as a top-class destination for shopping, arts and culture, and dining.A mezze platter for two, packed with baba ghanuj, hummos, tabbouleh, falafel, lentil salad, cheese sambousek, pickles and pitta bread, would have easily sufficed for lunch.But as was the theme for these never-to-be-forgotten few days, we followed up with mains to make the short walk back to our hotel more of a waddle than a walk.There’s a real vibrancy to the place and a freshness that can be felt wherever you walk, a feeling best experienced at the Riverside, where more than a dozen bars and restaurants cater for all tastes, all of which were buzzing even on a Monday night. I’d heard plenty of positive feedback about Jamie Oliver’s chain of restaurants and was keen to find out if the experience was indeed ‘pukka’.