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The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

The Fabulous Ugly Duckling Pub & Restaurant, Longlane Telford

Just north of Telford, in Shropshire, can be found the high end Gastro pub ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  It’s unusual to find such a high end pub, selling modern British food, at such reasonable prices.

 

The Ugly Duckling

Opened in August 2016 The Ugly Duckling has quickly grown in popularity, due to the superb food, inviting and relaxing décor. It is recommended to book, especially on weekends.

Front Entrance

I booked a table on Saturday night as a treat to us both before Marianne goes into hospital. She is very generously donating a kidney to her best friend Kate.  We’ll save the details of that for another blog post!

The Bar Area

 

The Bar

Looking at the menu it is obvious that The Ugly Duckling offers so much more than the stereotypical gastro pub.

We arrived about half an hour before our reservation at 7 pm and enjoyed a pre-dinner drink (Marianne was behaving and had lime cordial), whilst taking in the relaxing décor and all the ‘duck’ art work.  It is obvious that the owners saved no expense when they carried out the refurbishment and they have really done a fantastic job.  It is said you can judge an eatery by the care they take on back of house – and even the toilets are nicely decorated!

We were sat down by our waitress and offered drinks and water to have with our meal and efficiently presented with our menu.  The menu offered about 8 different starters with the average price £6 – £7 with both meat and vegetarian options, the specials board was read out and explained including all the trimmings (of which there were many !!)

Marianne chose the Lamb & Spring Onion Cigars at £7.95 and I ordered Scallops & King Prawns served with a Lobster Bisque at £10.50.

What can I say – they were really delicious, you could taste the freshness with a real depth of flavour in my dish, and the balance of the Lamb, spring onion and mint sauce with the broad bean humus made Marianne speechless (doesn’t happen often !!) – both dishes, we would recommend and would definitely have again.

We couldn’t resist the Gin & Tonic Granita when offered.  We expected a frozen gin and tonic sorbet – I not a big fan of gin and tonic but loved this – it was beautifully presented in a small flute glass with lime shavings and went down a treat.

Gin & Tonic Granita

For the main course – The menu offered a choice of about 15 main courses, plus daily specials with prices starting from £10.95.   With Chateaubriand on the special board how could we resist.  Chateaubriand is from the tenderloin fillet and is considered one of the best cuts of beef you can get.  Due to the size of this dish with all the trimmings it is for 2 people, so Marianne and I decided to go for it.  Priced at £54  so £27 each – it was the most expensive main course but, due to the occasion we decided to splash out.

Well – seriously – to say a main course at £27 each was worth every penny means it must have been good right.  It was – it really was.  We asked for it to be cooked medium and it was cooked exactly as we wanted it.  Accompanied by Heritage tomatoes, asparagus wrapped in Parma ham, homemade chips, baby carrots and watercress and Parmesan salad.    The peppercorn sauce that it was served with, was really really good!  I don’t like tomatoes but I ate these, they were like confit tomatoes and tasted so different to your normal tomato – thanks chef I ate a tomato!!

Chateaubriand

Both of us really didn’t have much room for pudding, but bumped into friends and after catching up and sharing stories we decided that enough time had passed to be able to manage a pudding !!! so we decided to give up the fight and went for it!! – Rhubarb & White Chocolate semi-fredo served with Limoncello Ice Cream.  It was a wonderful way to finish off a superb meal.

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Semi fredo

The service throughout the meal was very efficient, friendly and relaxed which together with the superb food made the meal thoroughly enjoyable.  We wouldn’t hesitate in coming back and highly recommending The Ugly Duckling to those in Shropshire, looking for beautifully and thoughtfully prepared, fantastic food, sustainably produced and sourced locally (They aim to purchase local food and to source most food from within a 20 mile radius.  Obviously being in the Midlands fish, has to come from slightly further afield, however their ‘catch of the day, is delivered fresh on a daily basis), sold at a great price, in a thoroughly desirable venue with service that welcomes and includes guests.

We had the pleasure of meeting the Head Chef Will Mason, after the meal, to find out where he learnt to cook such delicious food.

Chef Will, originally from Telford, started cooking from an early age, and at the age of just 11 followed his mum to work, who managed the Hundred House in Norton, just outside of Telford.  This obviously sparked a passion for food and he went on to work, until the age of 19, at the Raven Hotel, under Chef Steve Biggs.  Will wanted to learn the classics and ventured over to the resort, Courchevel 1850, where he stayed for 9 months.  Will has also worked at the Courmayeur in Italy and Austria before returning to work under Chef Nigel Huxley at The Drapers Restaurant in Shrewsbury.

Will & the Team

Will has been Head Chef at The Ugly Duckling since it has opened and his passion to produce great honest food was obvious.  Talking of fresh, it was so nice to discover that the only frozen food is their ice cream and everything served is made on site, including the ice cream.  This was obvious from the wonderful flavour of the food we had.

Some of the great staff we met – Say Cheese !!
To find our more information on the Ugly Duckling check out their web site here

 

A few more Pictures:

 

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My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

My First week blogging – Panic, Papers and Interviews

As the recovery from the leaving party settles and Marianne heads off to work on Monday morning, I arise with enthusiasm and dread thinking of the amount of work to be done.  It’s not work as we know it, sat at the desk answering emails from the boss, but there is a lot to do to get ready to travel full time.  There’s working out how to sell all our ‘stuff’, learning about the tech that we will need as full time bloggers, from photography, go pros, video editing software, You Tube channels, Gimbals, drones and so much more that I haven’t even heard of yet.

I was keen to get some basics done, to help promote the blog and our journey – and it has been a very eventful week.

Our first TREAD the Globe T shirt  was delivered.   We initially only ordered one to see what it looked like and check the quality, but were pleased with the results.   I decided that we needed a message on the shirt “Blogging / Vlogging in progress” so people know what we are doing, rather than looking like a complete loony whilst we have fully blown conversations to a go pro, as we walk around and it may give a bit more credibility when we ask complete strangers for a photo.  Let us know what you think of it.

So to clarify Vlogging is video blogging. It’s not the same as flogging so I haven’t started to enjoy getting whipped !!

 

We also managed to get some great publicity through both the local newspaper (The Shropshire Star) and BBC Radio Shropshire.  Sophie Madden the chief reporter for the paper came over to the house to interview us, on our plans to sell up and TREAD the globe for evermore and to discuss Marianne’s plans to donate a kidney to her best and longest friend Katie Bridgett.

 

Sophie Madden Chief Reporter

 

She is an amazing woman and there’s not people that would go through this for their friends.    At this time we are not allowed to say where or when the surgery is taking place as there are a total of four people involved as Marianne is not a direct match with her friend.  Over the coming months we will share our experiences on this and hope that we can raise awareness of the living donor scheme to help other people in similar situations.  Marianne also wants to show the world that there is life after donating a kidney to hopefully inspire people to do the same.  She wants to show that you can still jump out of an aeroplane, swim with sharks and travel the world.  I’m not convinced on the jumping out of a plane, as she has already ticked this off her bucket list) but Marianne is definitely someone that’s up for a challenge – any other suggestions on things for her to do after she has recovered are welcomed !!

Huckleberry Finn eat your heart out

We had great fun with Steve the photographer as we ran around the house looking for a couple of sticks and some chequered shirts so we could end up looking like we were from the adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The rucksacks I had prepared looked far too normal!

 

A picture in the TREAD van

 

 

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On Saturday morning we had the pleasuring of going to the BBC Radio Shropshire studio for a live interview with Eric Smith, the morning presenter.  As we waited it gave us a similar feeling to that of a job interview.

We had originally been told that the interview would last about 20 minutes but Eric was certainly very curious about our plans and the fact that so many people talk about selling up but no one actually does it.  As we had already gone through a long thought process of why we wanted to TREAD the Globe permanently we were able to answer all of his questions.

He did think we were insane when we explained we wanted to swim with schools of hammerhead sharks off the Galapogos Islands and I am not sure we fully convinced him that sharks are really misunderstood fish!!!

The interview flew by as Eric made us feel so welcome, and it lasted about 40 minutes.  We ended up staying in the studio until Eric’s show had finished.  But, before we left, we agreed we would go back to the studio as we set off on our travels for a cuppa and a chat !!

With DJ Ryan Kennedy

 

 

Overall the first week as a blogger has been very busy, but most enjoyable.  Watch out for our next post as we head off to the Shrewsbury’s annual Dragon Boat race.

Barcelona- an awesome city break

Barcelona- an awesome city break

February is a great time of year to escape the grey days in England and look for a little winter sun! We decided on Barcelona.  We took a short 2 hour flight with Ryan Air from East Midlands Airport.  Stepping out into a very comfortable 18 °C, was just what we needed.

Booking through Air B&B we found a very comfortable flat, booked for four nights in the Gothic Quarter, as it seemed a good central location within walking distance to most of the top sights. (If you’ve never used Air B&B before you should check it out click here).

Check out what we saw and recommend if you take a trip to Barcelona.

La Rambla

Our first stop and the nearest to our flat.  This famous street, is one that attracts a lot of tourists (and pickpockets, so beware and only carry what you need to, everybody says it – but it is a real warning! with common sense you will  be fine).  We started at the top – a long street with street performers, shops and restaurants.  Although busy, it must be a lot more crazier in the summer months.

Walking down the centre of this long pedestrianised street, the restaurants are all geared towards tourists and tend to be a bit more expensive than if you head off into the side streets and go off the beaten track.

About a quarter of the way down on the right is a narrow entrance to the market.   Wow,  if you love food you are going to love this – its like Harrods food hall on steroids!.    Meats, seafood, chocolates, fruit – its all there.  Again more expensive that other markets as its in a tourist location – as we found out when Marianne posed for a picture and maybe got a bit personal with the strawberries (picture of the strawberry on instagram) and then ended up buying half the stall.  I’m sure she did it on purpose so we had to buy fruit !

I was in food heaven !

 

Port Vell

At the bottom of La Rambla  it opens out and across the road is the sea front.  A bridge takes you over to a large shopping centre full of known branded shops, restaurants and a cinema.  This leads onto the main port where you can spot exclusive super yaghts and it a great spot to sit and watch the sun set over Barcelona.

I hope that ferry stops !

La Catedral

Located in the Barri Gotic (gothic area) is La Catedral.   If you go in the morning, as we did, it was free to enter.  It was a very beautiful cathedral with a nice courtyard housing a pond, orange trees and geese.   Out side the entrance is a large pedestrian area with stalls and entertainers.

Arc de Triomf

The Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as an entrance gateway to the Barcelona world fair.  It’s an impressive structure and located on a long straight pedestraniased walkway with the Parc de la Ciutadella at the bottom.

Parc de la Ciutadella

A short walk from the Arc de Triomf, is this beautiful park.   The history of the park is not quite so beautiful – After winning a war, in the early 18th century, King Felipe V demolished this part of the city to create a military citadel so he could control Barcelona.  Then a hundred or so years later, this was destroyed to create a large park where the people of Barcelona could escape the mayhem of city life.

In the North West corner of the park is the Font de la Cascada –  with a beautiful fountain.   Worth the steps if you want a nice aerial view over the park.

Chris doing another fountain drink shot !!!

Basilica of the Sagrada Familia

This is a must visit attraction if you go to Barcelona.   Towering above the city sky line is this magnificent building, which started being built way back in 1882.  Yes that’s right 1882 ! This is Antonio Gaudi’s most stunning work and with still many years of construction to do, numerous cranes tower over an already very tall building.

Marianne’s dad, David and friend Pam were also in Barcelona and we arranged to meet them at the entrance to the Basilica.  We waited at the entrance next to the lake, which was clearly the entrance as visitors were queuing to enter.  It was fascinating watching the street vendors selling their selfie poles, fridge magnets, etc. who would get a warning from their look outs, then pack up in a panic and flee when the police were nearby only to set up again as soon as the police had left.

After nearly an hour we decided to go in on our own and then realised that the tickets were sold on the other side of the building, and you then had to walk back round to enter.  It didn’t make any sense but as we joined the line for the tickets we spotted them, when we asked the ticket office if ‘this’ was the front ? they explained that the the front had not actually been built yet !!

There are a number of ticket options available.  If you only have a short time a basic ticket will be fine at 15,00 €.  There is also an option that includes an audio tour, which is the option we choose it was very informative and gave lots of facts that you wouldn’t normally know.

 

We also made sure our ticket covered the lift to the top.   Not to be done if your scared of heights as it is very high but gives you a great view over Barcelona.  The spiral staircase down seems to go on forever and you will definitely be a little dizzy by the time you reach the bottom.

 

 

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

Abbreviated as MNAC this is the national museum of Catalan Visual Art.  If you like art the this is a must. However even if you are not into art, the area around the museum is well worth a visit.

 

The museum sits on top of a hill  over looking the magic fountain.  There are escalators up to the top for those that are unable to take the stairs.  Its a wonderful place to sit and listen to the entertainers with an amazing view of the city below.

 

Behind the museum is the park – Sant-Mont Juic.    A large area of parkland  – we strolled through on the way back to town.  En route we came across an old amphitheatre. I couldn’t resist running down to the front to bellow out a couple of lines of Shakespeare to Marianne.  Although a word of warning there is moss on the stones and some are very slippery as I nearly ended my rendition by falling off the stage!!

Romeo Romeo

 

We had a great time in Barcelona and it is highly recommended.   If like us, you are foodies check out our post  on our eating experiences in Barcelona.

 

 

 

 

Our first time under water – try a discovery dive

Our first time under water – try a discovery dive

I have always loved snorkelling – it gives you that glimpse into another world below from the familiar comfort of the surface.  So, whenever I planned a trip away to warmer tropical climates, I would always make sure that part of the holiday had a few days next to the beach with the best coral reef we could find.  Marianne and I have never really been the kind to sit and sunbathe on a beach for hours, we both get itchy feet after an hour or so …..

Our first trip to Sabah, Borneo was no exception.  After a lot of research, and looking in the lonely planet travel guide (and online I came to the conclusion that the islands off the East Coast of Sabah looked and sounded perfect.  All of the resorts seemed to be geared towards divers so the waters must be good right?.  It took some time to find somewhere to stay within our budget.  Many were hundreds of £’s per night even for non divers.  I eventually came across a resort that was both very reasonably priced and claimed to have an amazing house reef right off the beach.  Sold! I booked 3 nights at Scuba Junkie on the island of Mabul.

As I sat on the boat for the 45 minute journey it takes to get to the island I was excited to jump into that water with my mask and snorkel –  I had been sat in my office in the UK thinking about this moment for long enough !.   As soon as we arrived and checked in I was off down to the beach.  I walked in up to my waist and started swimming.  WOW there was a turtle right there under me in no more than 5 feet of water.  I was not disappointed.  I swam out over the reef and was amazed at the variety of  life below me.  Marianne was back in the resort – she is not such a keen swimmer, she has been heard saying she hates water! and I had to share my excitement with the first person I saw! I then started to babble like a child let loose in Willie Wonka’s Chocolate factory.  The person I was talking to turned out to be one of Scuba Junkie’s instructors called Jason.

Me & Jason – the reason we started diving

He asked if I was a diver and I said no just a snorkeler and he then said why don’t I give it a try.  At that time I was under the impression that you couldn’t just try it without being a qualified diver.  Jason went on to explain the Padi – discovery dive.  OK sold.  I found Marianne and shared my excitement.  Her jaw hit the floor when I said I had booked us both on a discovery dive the following morning. (she hates water and is claustrophobic a great combination for a diver)

                                      The end of Scuba Junkie’s Jetty

Jason met us on the jetty and spent time talking us through diving, explaining some basic tests, hand signals and rules that we had to do before we were able to dive with him.  The most important rule is NEVER hold your breath under water as the air can expand in your lungs as you ascend.  We were now wet suited up with tanks on our backs and climbing down the steps towards the sunken platform at the end of the jetty.  What a great set up, a secure platform in which we can practice and do our basic skill tests.   Marianne was breathing just under the surface in no time.  My brain had a real hang up.  Snorkelling is one thing, but breathing without that link to the surface was another thing !.  I think I must hold the record, for the longest time before taking their first breath !  It must have been 20 minutes my brain just didn’t want to do it.  Jason deserved a medal for his patience and constantly gave me supportive words of encouragement.

Our first dive – how exciting !

Eventually, we were kneeling on the platform and taking it in turns to demonstrate some basic skills after Jason had shown us what to do.  We had to take out our regulator, and clear it both with our breath and also by purging it, showing how we could retrieve our regulator in case we dropped it and clear water out of our mask.

OK – tests all done and we were off descending down. We could go to a maximum of 12 meters and followed Jason who kept a close eye on us.  Many people I have spoken to suffer with their ears and it took a couple of dives before I fully understood that you have to pop you ears on the way down before they start to hurt.  If your ears hurt stop going any deeper and slowly go up a meter or so until they stop hurting, clear them again before slowly descending again.

It really was another world, we saw a huge variety of fish and corals.  Marianne got fixated by a turtle that swam past that she stopped following Jason and started following the turtle – until she felt Jason pulling her fins to take her out of the trance.

A lion Fish & Eel

We both loved it so much we paid for an additional 2 dives and rented a camera so we could capture the moment.

 

There were  fish everywhere.

We love turtles.

This was how our love of diving started – all because Jason persuaded me to try it – Thank you Jason.

We will soon have reached the 100 dive milestone – that’s another story!

So next time, you have the opportunity give it a go – it may change your life – it certainly has for us !

 

Clown Fish                                                    Crocodile Fish

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary & Kinabatangan River- Favourite pics

Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary & Kinabatangan River- Favourite pics