Pialligo Estate – excellent for lunch in the Garden Pavillions

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Pialligo Estate is one of my three favourite Canberra spots for fine dining.

It is blessed by the most gorgeous setting, so close to town.

And Pialligo Estate does food and wine so well, enjoying it’s own vineyard, winery and smokehouse.

I especially love the Garden Pavillions that truly make the most of Pialligo Estate’s assets.

So I was especially pleased to be there to try a group set menu lunch, a new experience for me at Pialligo.

Our delicious meal began with…

Three Mills Sourdough, Pialligo Estate Olive Oil

Pialligo Salmon Gravlax, Dill Pickles

Burrata, Early Season Tomatoes & Rocket Pesto

Smokehouse Meats, Condiments

…progressed to….

Spit Holmbrae Chicken, Pazanella

Whole Roasted Lamb Shoulder & Chickpeas

Potatoes in Olive Oil, Rosemary

Leaves in Aged Vinegar

…..and finished with….

Cheese Platter & Condiments

Vanilla Panacotta with Coffee & Chocolate

This pannacotta was the most lovely I’ve ever had and the star of the meal.

I will need to enjoy  that again!

The set menu we enjoyed is excellent value at $70 per person for three courses with sides and cheese platter

This was beautifully complimented by a great selection of wines

I do love all the innovative things Pialligo Estate gets up to.

They are currently renovating the Farmhuse Restaurant and Rohan has more plans in mind.

The new Masterclasses are on my wish list.

So exciting to see the offerings from Pialligo Estate  constantly evolving with new delights.

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Unpacking the Indian Lunchbox with Cooking Circles Canberra and Joy Indian Restaurant

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This week Cooking Circles Canberra‘s hosted their biggest ever event at Joy Indian RestaurantUnpacking the Indian Lunchbox.

Shafique and his lovely wife Farhana, proud owners of the recently opened Joy Indian Restaurant, generously welcomed over 50 Canberra women and taught and prepared some of the dishes that go into the Indian lunchbox.

Some had come along last year to Shafique’s Cooking Circles Bangladeshi workshop at Taste of Bangladesh in Manuka. Last year it was delicious so Cooking Circles regulars were expecting equally wonderful food from Shafique this time.


But before we started cooking, we needed to know the amazing story of the Indian Lunchbox….


Mumbai has an incredibly efficient and economical lunch delivery system that is over 125 years old.


Six days a week, 5,000 Dabbawallahs collect over 200,000 home cooked meals, deliver them to offices and then return the lunchbox or dabba to the cook at home charging only $10 a month.
It all started in 1890 when Mahadeo, like many others, arrived in Bombay seeking to make his fortune.

Mahadeo quickly realised that those who did have work, found it particularly tricky to eat the kind of home cooked lunch they wanted.

It was hard for the home cook to have the rice, bread and curry ready by 7am when their menfolk left for work and if they did get up super early, it would all be cold by lunch time.
So Mahadeo recruited 100 men and started the now famous Bombay lunch delivery system.
This is how it works. Office workers leave home around around 7 o’clock…

….when their wives, sisters and mothers are busy cooking.


Then the Dabbawallahs start work around 8:30 after a quick road side Chai with their mates.
They are easily recognisable by their white cotton Kurta pyjamas and their Gandhi style cap.
Dabbawallahs are organised into groups of 25 who work together all their working lives.
If someone leaves, they recruit a friend of relative, which means that most Dabbawallahs are from the town of Pune. It also means they are great friends!

About 9 o’clock each Dabba wallah picks up around 30 different lunches from home cooks and then by bike takes them to the nearest train station….

…. where they get coded and sorted by another Dabbawallah who loads them onto the train.
Then they are taken by another Dabbawallah to the end point station.


The lunch delivery system all depends on Mumbais amazing railways, and timing is tight to fit with the train timetable.
There’s about 30 seconds to load or unload at stations.
Needless to say, no Dabbawallah gets to eat his own lunch until well after everyone else.
The lunchboxes are often carried in wooden crates on Dabbawallahs heads.

The coding system uses colours shapes and numbers.
The code identifies the Dabbawallahs at each stage of the process, the collection neighbourhood, office building and floor. The colour of the bag identifies the office worker.
At the end station, a local Dabbawallahs collects the lunchbox and delivers it to the right person in the right office by 12:30. Mistakes are incredibly rare, 1 in 8,000.
The office worker enjoys a lovingly cooked home made meal just the way his wife, mother or sister knows he likes it!

Then at 5pm it all happens in reverse. And the dabba or Lunchbox gets safely delivered back to the home cook.

The dabba wallahs also have started a system where any uneaten food can be identified by a sticker and taken to feed those in need, all at no cost to the client. This is a service to the community by the Dabbawallahs.
Dabbawallahs consider their work to be worthy and noble. They are serving God by delivering healthy, nourishing food and will be blessed.
And to it was to Shafique who told us more about the foods that go into the Dabba!


We tried our hand at rolling roti and learnt to cook it in our home frypan.


We also learnt to cook lentil vegetable rice….


….and Chicken Kadai all typical dishes that might be found in many an Indian lunchbox!

And finally we all sat down to enjoy a fabulous meal together.


We all left a great evening with new friendships, new recipes and new experiences!
Many thanks to Kirsty Young for her photos.

Check out this 3-minute video that explains everything about these amazing lunch boxes

Catch ‘The Lunchbox’ movie free to watch on SBS On Demand.

Photo sources http://sonyclassics.com/thelunchbox/dates/ and 

Joy Indian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Darbar, Braddon – My new top pick for Indian food in Canberra!

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When owner Vinay invited me to come and road test Darbar’s food I was skeptical.

So I asked Vinay to tell me – what makes Darbar different and why would people choose Darbar ahead of the many other Indian restaurants in Canberra?

But, Vinay kept telling me to let the food speak for itself. And he also mentioned that I might want to call in some friends as he wanted me to taste a whole feast of Darbar’s dishes.

I’m so glad I did (and so were my lucky friends) as we were quickly transported from this unassuming Lonsdale Street eatery to a bliss of sophisticated, complex flavours wrapped around, stuffed and infused through tender, succulent meats and carried by creamy, rich and full flavoured sauces. As Glenn, a local Braddonite told me, he dines at Darbar several times a week and could happily just enjoy the sauces and breads they are so wonderful.

It’s actually very hard to pick favourites from our feast. For the first time ever, I can say, every dish is a true winner. And very happily, the menu is extensive, so trying something different each visit is definitely the way to go.

Darbar’s specialty is modern Indian fusion style so the menu features some very special unique dishes like Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, a spice marinated Tasmanian salmon fillet, Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish , Beetroot Bonda, Prawn Vepadu and slow cooked,spiced Desi Lamb Shanks.

But Vinay also wants to do the favourites like Butter Chicken, Chicken 65 and Marsala Dosa better than anyone else – and he does!!

Then there are also the famous regional dishes that reflect Vinay’s heritage like the Gutti Vankai -baby stuffed eggplants in a dreamy cashew nut sauce and the Bezawada Railway Goat Curry (more about that later).

But let me share our amazingly delicious journey with you.

We started with the Spicy Potato Salad served complimentary to diners along with mint sauce and pappadoms.

This was my first inkling that this was no ordinary Indian restaurant. The mint sauce was thick and rich like none before and the garam marsala spicing of the potato salad had a depth and complexity that I just wasn’t expecting from this simple first course.

Then came the vegetarian entrees, first the Indo-Italian fusion Stuffed Zucchini Flowers, filled with spiced vegetables and a touch of cheese – I really did enjoy these – $13 for a serve of 4.

Followed by Darbar’s signature entree dish – Darbar Chaat, crispy spinach pakora on rice with sweet yogurt, which was the best version of Palak Papdi Chaat I’ve enjoyed and beautifully decorated with with tamarind, mint and tomato sauces – $12

Next came the Masala Dosai – a thin crisp, golden brown rice pancake rolled with spiced potato masala & served with coconut and tomato chutneys  and sambar.

Now I’ve eaten many Marsala Dosas, both in Australia and India, but I can’t remember one better than this! The spicing again was careful and wonderful! I loved this too especially the fresh curry leaves $16.

Then came the non-vegetarian entrees – my favourite (and most of our table’s) was the Bamboo charcoal Tuna Fish – fresh tuna, simmered with mustard seed, pepper, garam masala, mint leaf and methi and fried with bamboo charcoal infused corn starch – just so delicious $15


Another fusion (Indo-Australian) dish followed – Jal Pari Hariyali ( a Chefs Speciality)
Marinated Tasmanian salmon fillets with turmeric, cashew paste, cumin, coriander powder and lemon juice, pan fried and served with crisped sweet potato and mint sauce on a bed of spices potatoes $17

Then Prawn Vepudu – King Sized prawns pan fried in spicy lentil powder, curry leaves, garam masala, cracked pepper, onions and fresh coriander – yummy – three pieces for $17

And Darbar’s Chicken 65  – (traditionally a 65 day old chicken) marinated in exotic spices, lemon juice and deep fried, tossed with curry leaf, fenugreek powder and coriander served with lemon and Spanish onion. Just as Viany promised this was the most tender, succulent and full spiced version of this dish I’ve had  – $14

I loved darbar’s version of Butter Chicken – Tandoori Grilled chicken simmered in spiced butter fenugreek and kasoori methi leaves masala gravy with honey and pepper. Again this was tender, beautifully and deeply spiced and just the best!  $19

The Bezawada Railway Goat Curry is named after Vinay’s home town near Hyderabad, a large railway junction and one of the many famous for serving Goat Curry. The diced goat is slowly cooked in an unusual but smooth and medium spiced garam masala flavoured with onion, cumin, fenugreek seeds and fresh curry leaves  – very excellent! $21

We were wowed by the Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani  –  basmati rice cooked dum style with chicken, herbs and spices in a poppy seed gravy and covered in the traditional way with pastry to seal the natural flavours along with coconut milk, mint, saffron and rose water $21


The Lamb Chops were also truly beautifully tender lamb cutlets marinated in Kashmiri spices, roasted in Tandoor Oven $22 for a serve of 5.

Also very delicious was the secret recipe Desi Lamb Shanks – 8 hours slow cooked lamb shanks with whole spices, shallots, carrot, garlic cloves and tomatoes, served on a bed of potato mash $22

Another favourite of our table and a traditional regional dish was the Gutti Vankai – stuffed whole baby eggplant (Brinjal) in a ground paste of cashew, peanut, sesame and coconut cooked in the Hyderabadi style $18

I loved the Laccha Paratha bread – soft and flakey $4.50..

…but the Cheese Naan $5 was excellent too.

Vinay has done his research well, wanting to offer competitive prices that are great value for generous serve sizes (great for sharing) and even a better deal with the 15-20% discounts offered on the website.

BYO wine corkage is $3.50 per person but there’s also an extensive wine list with wine by the glass thoughtfully starting at $7

So there’s everything here from a ‘Just Feed Me’ gourmet banquet like we had, to a budget friendly under $20 dinner for two (share an entree, main, bread and rice, BYO your wine and use the discount), to a group menu for twelve under $20 a person including corkage….

3 x Stuffed Zucchini  Flowers (12 pieces)

3 x Gutti Vankai

3 x Desi Lamb Shanks

3 x Butter Chicken

6 x Saffron Basmati rice

6 x Laccha Paratha

Do check out the amazing catering packages on the website that are excellent value, starting at $15 per person for three courses with sides.

And the Banquet menu looks good too…

And also consider the Tuesday to Friday lunch specials, equally great value.

The team are a warm and friendly bunch who have come together from various parts of the world with great pride and quiet dedication to serving Canberra these consistently gorgeous dishes.

Vinay from Bezawada, also owns the well regarded Darbar Restaurant in Glebe and more casual Swagath in Wentworthville. His favourites are the Bezawada Goat Curry, Chicken 65, Chicken Biriyani, Lamb Chops and Garlic Naan.

Hari is from Hyderabad so he loves the Chicken Biriyani, but also the Chicken 65, Goat Curry and Peshwari (fruit and nut stuffed) Naan.

Suraj from Nepal is head chef and his favourites are the Jal Pari Hariyali and Chicken Chat Pat.

Raja from Sri Lanka likes the Bamboo Charcoal Tuna Fish best.

Nina has joined the team from Germany and Vamsi (who missed the photo) is also from Bezawada enjoys the Gutti Vanaki – stuffed eggplant, best.

And Glenn’s favourite dish is the Prawn & Scallop Lababdar – King size prawns and scallops cooked to perfection in a delicate sauce based on fresh tomatoes, ginger and shallots, flavoured with coriander and fenugreek $21 (Glenn just gets all prawns, but you can also just have all scallops).

Everything Vinay told me was true!  He has every reason to claim Darbar as the best Indian food in Canberra!

I arrived as a skeptic, but left a true believer!

Parking is easy after 6pm either in the lane behind the restaurant (also great for picking up takeway) or underneath.

ADDRESS

(near Debacle – look for the yellow sign – opposite Grease Monkey – in the M3 building)

139/24 Lonsdale Street
Braddon, ACT 2612

 PHONE
TRADING HOURS

Open 7 Days:

Monday
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM
Tuesday to Sunday
Lunch: 12:00PM to 2:30PM
Dinner: 5:30PM to 10:00PM

Friday & Saturday
Dinner served up to 11:00PM

Darbar Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Paella at Pod Food, Pialligo – a treat for Cooking Circles Canberra

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Fine Eating was back again at Pod Food this week with the very lovely company of Cooking Circles Canberra!

The generous and immensely hospitable team at Pod hosted a fabulous evening of all things Paella!

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John, Jack and Sam – our hosts

Pod Food is of course the perfect garden venue for sharing paella with new friends. I always love how many new people I meet at Cooking Circles and it’s great to catch up again with those I’ve met before.

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As we arrived, we introduced ourselves and took up Sam’s very welcome offer of a glass of Canberra wine.

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We settled in as John unpacked the secrets of a successful paella!

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John explained how to create the perfect stock base…

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…what and when to add the oil, onions, spicy and smokey paprikas, Spanish onion and chorizo, beautifully coloured capsicums….

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….stock, seafood and chicken.

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We appreciated the importance of the crackle and the crust as the delicious aromas filled the garden.

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John and Sam even shared their favourites ways with leftover Paella – add and egg and Pialligo bacon for a brekkie paella, soy sauce and peas for fried rice – paella freezes and reheats beautifully.

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So relaxing after a busy day, to sit and enjoy conversations about creating and sharing food.

But their was a surprise left for us. No eating paella off our laps from a disposable plate for us!

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John, Jack and Sam had created a beautiful space for us to enjoy each other’s company and that very, very fine paella.

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If you weren’t lucky enough to catch Paella at Pod Food, don’t miss another wonderful event coming up. All woman are welcome to come along to Cooking Circles.

Join us in April as we unpack the iconic Indian lunchbox with Shafique at Joy Indian Restaurant and create roti, lentil and vegetable rice and chicken kadai together.

Do grab a ticket or two before they all go!

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The Canberra Food Bloggers road test the new menu at Pod Food!

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Canberra has a lovely and lively community of people writing and posting about food!
The food bloggers are an especially social bunch and we love to get together for lunch every couple of months and enjoy some of Canberra’s wonderful venues.

This week Bizzy Lizzy took us to try out Pod Food’s new menu, in the conveniently close but relaxingly rural Pialligo.

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Sam Kildea, fabulous host that he is, set us up beautifully in Pod’s delightful garden…

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….but at Pod, there are just so many cute and cozy nooks to choose from.

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The most difficult decision of the day was whether to enjoy two ($50) or three ($60) courses!

Second most tricky was which of the gorgeous options to choose.
Some went with entrees: the Prawn noodle (yes, noodles made from prawns), with a soft 65 degree egg, parmesan, bacon and avruga caviar (which they raved about!)…

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….and the very decorative Pork sausage with pickled peach, mushroom cream, capsicum and chilli jam.

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Other choices on the menu were Asparagus spears, with beetroot, caramelised onion, goat’s cheese and rye cracker or Duck rillettes with pickled raspberry, crispy chicken skin and nashi pear.

We covered all the mains with the sirloin being the standout dish (along with very popular chilli and rosemary salt baked potatoes and aioli, which Sam thoughtfully threw in for us).

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Seared sirloin with fennel, dutch carrot with saffron potato foam

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Mushroom and chicken roulade with wasabi jelly, shimeji, chorizo and pea

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Pan fried market fish (swordfish this time) with potato, chermoula, wild rice and a lovely spinach soubise

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Wombok wrapped nut and lentil with pumpkin, tomato and radish

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And hugely successful were the desserts….

My Lime cheesecake with raspberry, lime get, macadamia, raspberry meringue and pineapple sorbet was a delicious balance of tart, sweet, crunchy and creamy – wonderful!

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The others loved their Pan perdu cooked in a very aromatic clarified butter with apple tarte tatin ice cream, brandy apple puree, blackberry and white chocolate!

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Also tempting was the sour cherry ice cream with coconut and oat crumble, chocolate jelly and cherry marshmallow.

As we chatted about cookbook launches, restaurant recommendations, writing opportunities and of course the wonderful food and atmosphere that Pod Food offers – the new Pod menu was declared a great success!!

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Pod Food Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Salotto, Kingston – good for a group on a budget

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I’ve enjoyed Santa Lucia Salotto‘s great lunch special (now $13.90) but this week I road tested the main menu for a  group dinner on a budget.

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We were fourteen girlfriends with a $25 per head limit on food.  So we choose a range of dishes to share – which all turned out to be perfect picks – with plenty to eat and some left over.

It was all served together which gave it a tapas/shared plate feel and while everything was delicious – the salads were the real standout for me! (And there was no salad at all left by anyone!)

For 14 of us we ordered:

Antipasto

4 x ANTIPASTO PLATTER  with san daniele prosciutto, cappacollo, mortadella and wagyu bresola accompanied with grilled vegetables, warm olives, giaidinera and pickled artichoke $25 each (bread is $6 for six slices so we got two serves and a couple of extras thrown in!).

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Salads

3 x INSALATA CON FUNGHI with grilled mushrooms with mixed lettuce, garlic, chilli, spanish onion & sun-dried tomatoes $14 each

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3 x INSALATA CAPRESE with a soothing fresh tomato, basil and buffalo mozzarella salad dressed in an olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette $14.50 each

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Pizza (cut into 8 slices)

2 x PROSCIUTTO fiori di latte, san danielle prosciutto, fresh roquette and shaved parmesan $21 each

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2 x AMANTI DELLA CARNE fiori di latte, 3 meat ragu, salami and barbecue sauce $23 each

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2 x FUNGHI fiori di latte, 3 mushrooms with a drizzle of truffle oil $20 each

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BYO wine corkage is $9 per bottle and there’s seating inside and out!

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Salotto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

3 top tips for hosting a Brunch event at home – the perfect meal for entertaining a crowd!  

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Mid-week public holidays are a great opportunity to host an event!
There’s usually something to celebrate – hence the day off – and guests have fewer prior commitments to work around.
And brunch is the perfect meal!

It can all be done ahead.

It’s flexible enough to fit in any budget.

It’s easy to adapt to special dietary needs

It is just one course that can be set out ready, leaving plenty of time to chat to guests.

It can all be cleared up to allow for a relaxed evening before heading back to work the next day.
But these are the three top tips for success! 

  1. Set beautiful tables
  •  it sets the scene
  •   it leaves plenty of room in the kitchen to set out the brunch buffet for everyone to       help themselves
  •    it leaves the washing up on the tables and not in the kitchen getting mixed up with      the food. It also allows it to be cleared up gradually as the dishwasher capacity           allows.

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2. Do everything ahead

Prepare dishes ready to serve and organise drinks

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3. If you are accepting offers of help – ask guests to bring anything that needs to be done on the day ( eg fruit platters, fruit salad) as this keeps the day free for last minute organising.

Some menu ideas:
Drinks:

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Lemon and mint ( or other flavours) infused iced water ( freeze ice in large containers to add)

Non- alcoholic fruit punch

Peach infused white wine

Sparkling wine and rose

Mango lassi shots

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Food:

Baked French toast using croissants and other pastries in a bread and butter pudding recipe

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Bircher muesli breakfast trifle using alternate layers of Bircher muesli, Greek natural yogurt and poached fruit and berries, topped with toasted muesli crumble, dried fruit and nuts and berries

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Pancake stacks (banana pancakes are yummy) layered with Greek natural yogurt, brown sugar and sliced banana and cinnamon, topped with chopped almonds or walnuts ( assemble on the day)

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Frittata or Spanish omelette

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Corn and Chorizo muffins

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Oven baked bacon

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Banana bread

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Scones with jam and cream

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And generously offered by others:
Croque Madame

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Savouries

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Dolmeh

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Fruit platters and fruit salads