Friday, 31 October 2014

Newbury Food Festival

What better way to spend an autumn weekend than at the Food Festival in the centre of Newbury? The next one is on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 November and if the last one, held in June, is anything to go by we are all in for a treat.

The town as a whole benefits from the extra people who come to Newbury to sample the delights on offer at the Food Festival. In June, several shops made the most of the extra footfall– for example, Oldburys Deli on the Bridge were tempting people in with delicious free samples. 

The Food Festival is pretty special: well organised and creating a lively, friendly atmosphere.  There will be all sorts of different food and drink to sample, from local home-grown goods to global gourmet goodies. Lunch on the hoof is always difficult to resist, especially with such mouth-watering offerings as free-range pulled pork rolls, tender beef brisket wraps, bison burgers, German sausages, pies and pasties, hot dogs, gourmet burgers, jerk chicken, paella, Vietnamese noodles, and sweet and savoury crepes to name but a few.

To wash it all down there is sure to be local beers and ciders which are always a winner. Look out for Tutts Clump Cider, who keep it really local – nearly all their apples come from West Berkshire.

There are always plenty of opportunities to purchase goodies to take home, too. Keep a look out for Sweeney and Todds from Reading who do a roaring trade with their homemade pies (rump steak and Stilton being a particularly huge hit). For pastry fans, why not try Jane from Kintbury, whose pork pies with a variety of exciting fillings are a big temptation (for example, pork and black pudding).  Then there are sure to be cheeses, cakes … you name it!

If The Wiltshire Chilli Farm are there selling their wares, see if they are going to put on their chilli-eating contest and put your name down. Not for the faint hearted but great fun with cries of encouragement from the crowd: ‘Eat that chilli!’

There will be something to please every taste bud at the November Food Festival, so the best advice is to skip breakfast and enjoy the feast on offer between 10am and 4pm.

To find out about having a stall at the this or a future Newbury Food Festival or to get involved with sponsorship, contact Jack Mcleod on 07413 662838 or email

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Biddy Prepares For Bonfire Night

Whatever would we do at this time of year if the misguided Guido Fawkes hadn’t done his worst all those years ago? In celebration, a firework party is a wonderful way to bring a bit of sparkle and cheer to a cold November evening as we rush headlong towards Christmas.

But it’s a good few years since I held a firework party and I have no intention of doing so this year. All that organising, all that cooking, all that bonfire building (though I could make a brilliant guy with the husband’s gardening gear which has definitely seen better days). No, this year once again I am taking the bigger, better and far, far easier option: I’m off to Newbury Racecourse to the firework display hosted by the Lions Club – they always put on a really spectacular show while raising funds for charity. This year it’s on Saturday 1 November, gates open at 5.30pm with fireworks starting at 7.30pm.

The husband will be getting our tickets from Newbury Building Society (they are selling them at their branches in Newbury and Thatcham), or they are also available from the Corn Exchange, or from Tesco stores in Newbury and Thatcham. You can also buy them from the Lions Club mascot, Roary, who is selling them in Northbrook Street on Saturdays in October. Advance tickets bought before 25 October are £4 for adults, £3.50 for children aged 5 and over (under 5s go free). Or if you can’t get them ahead of time tickets are £5 on the night.

What can you expect from Newbury Lions at Newbury Racecourse besides an amazing firework display set to music? I hear Roary the Lion will be making an appearance, Heart FM radio will keep everyone entertained and there will be face painting too. There will of course be a barbecue, and compulsory (for me anyway!) hot doughnuts; plus there will be hot drinks and a bar to keep us warm from the inside out, and fun for all at the funfair to keep the party going even after we’ve ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the final rocket.

Anyone want a spin on the waltzer with me?

Biddy x 

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Halloween Half Term Holiday Fun

What does a vampire like on his ice-cream sundae? Whipped scream! 

It’s no joke – West Berkshire is THE place to be for Halloween this half term, with a host (or should that be ghost?) of spooky treats taking place in and around Newbury.

From Friday 24 October until Tuesday 4 November there is pumpkin hunting at Bucklebury Farm Park, leading you through a creepy woodland maze. As well as all the normal exciting activities at Bucklebury you can play games in the haunted house and try the Halloween craft workshop. Further details at

Also from Friday 24 October until Tuesday 4 November there is fun to be had at Basildon Park with their self-led Halloween Trail, with a sweet treat at the end in either the wonderful 18th-century mansion or the fabulous grounds. Further details at

On the evening of Monday 27 October go to The Hub, Thatcham to enjoy a Freaky Fright Halloween Crafts workshop, creating fright-night masks and boggle-eyed monsters. Also at The Hub, Thatcham on the evening of Thursday 30 October there is a chance to create a mini secret spooky garden using up-cycled materials and foliage ... and there will be gruesome creepy gloves to send shivers down your spine! Reserve your space by calling 01635 845213 or emailing

From Monday 27 to Friday 31 October you can sail down the Kennet and Avon Canal on a Creepy Cruise, where Halloween horrors await on their Jubilee narrowboat! Children are encouraged to dress up in their most scary costumes and trick or treat the boat crew, who will be telling some ghostly tales. Be warned that these cruises are selling very fast (27 October is already sold out), so get your tickets from Newbury Visitor Information Centre asap. (Call 01635 30267 or email

From Monday 27 October until Saturday 1 November you can join in Newbury’s Halloween Haunt Hunt, run by Newbury BID in partnership with Parkway, Newbury Building Society, Rainbows and McDonalds. A Halloween Workshop takes place near Costas in Parkway, where children can participate in a range of activities to keep them busy. Collect a special form at the workshop and follow a spooky trail around the town collecting clues; those who find all the clues will be in with a chance of winning a great prize at the prize draw happening on Saturday 1 November.

On Wednesday 29 October there is a Halloween Family Activity Day at Shaw House. Be prepared for a ‘spooktacular’ time while making Halloween crafts!  Also at Shaw House on Friday 31 October there will be trick or treating, apple bobbing, a spooky trail and story time – fancy dress is encouraged and you need to take a torch! Advance booking is required. Further details at

On Thursday 30 October there will be Halloween Children’s Crafts at Saddleback Farm Shop, California Farm, Brightwalton. This is your chance to make a scary spider or a pumpkin face. (Booking essential). Their maze is open until the end of October and there are ride on tractors and sandpit to play in too. Further details at

On Halloween itself, Friday 31 October, the Monster Halloween Show (with Rebecca Keatley, presenter of CBeebies ‘Let's Play’ and ‘Quasimodo’) will be at the Kennet Shopping Centre. Enter the fancy dress competition and you might win a fantastic prize! Further details at

Also on Friday 31 October you can go along to Halloween Happenings at Cobbs Farmshop & Kitchen, Hungerford. Pick your own pumpkins and join in traditional Halloween fun of apple bobbing, pumpkin carving ... and even pumpkin hurling! There will be fancy dress and face painting too, plus a ‘Grab a Ghoul' lunchtime BBQ (weather permitting). Further details from

Last but certainly not least on Friday 31 October there is Wild Halloween at Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre. This is Halloween with a difference, with lots of wildlife-inspired crafts and activities to have a go at, such as mini-beast hunts and looking at animal poo!  Further details at

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Biddy at The Newbury

Sunday lunch at The Newbury – the gastropub in Bartholomew Street – comes high on my list of recommendations.

The husband and I took the younger members of our family, including our grandson DD (Diddle Dumpling – not actually on his birth certificate you understand!) there last weekend. The husband has been several times before for a light lunch or post-work drink but this was our first venture to sample the delights of the ‘full works’.

We had booked well in advance as we had been told how popular their Sunday lunches are, and were very pleased we did as there was a regular flow of people coming in to dine. A high chair for DD had been pre-booked and was ready and waiting for us, and we were able to sit and browse the regularly changing menu at our leisure over a drink – there was no pressure here to get us in and out for another sitting, just how we like it. The menfolk enjoyed sampling local beers and ciders; me, I wanted to keep a clear head, with DD to be kept amused (and I had volunteered to drive).

The interior of The Newbury is contemporary and comfortable. This is not your traditional High Street drinking pub; they have created an air of style, something that little bit special. This follows through on the menu. I always prefer just half a dozen or so choices for each course, knowing then that ingredients are likely to be seasonal and fresh – and much easier to choose between when not overwhelmed with far too many options.

I quickly settled on what was listed as a bar snack as a starter: Portland crab served on toast – and it was probably the nicest crab I’ve ever tasted. The husband went for the mussel chowder, a must-have if he ever spots it on a menu. It being Sunday, and The Newbury being famed for its beef roasted slowly for 12 hours, it was a no-brainer that we both chose that. Beautifully flavoured and melt-in-the-mouth – you’ve got to try it to believe how good it is. This was served with a lovely selection of fresh veggies and the most gorgeous, crispy roast potatoes ever – spot on!

Despite all of us being more than full, and us all taking it in turns to keep DD amused – it’s hard to sit still for two hours or so when you are not even two years old – we decided we could just about manage a pud.  I needed something fairly light by now so was torn between the Italian affogato (a particular favourite of mine) but decided to try something different: elderflower jelly with yoghurt sorbet, passion fruit mallow and fresh fruits. It was a great choice: a truly lovely combination with lots of interesting things going on. The husband could not resist the very sinful chocolate chip and honeycomb Eton mess – a very rich take on the traditional Eton mess! Younger members of the family went for the homemade ice cream (including salted caramel and popcorn flavour) and voted it ‘scrummy’.

Being a bit nosey, I popped upstairs to have a quick peep at the cocktail bar and roof terrace – all very smart and I am looking forward to a return visit to lounge on the wonderfully comfortable looking furniture out on the sun terrace before summer’s through. Maybe see you there!

Biddy x 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Biddy at Gelato Joe's

Fancy a sweet treat? Then I have just the place for you – go go go to Gelato Joe’s in Parkway!

I have been meaning to go for a while and found the time to treat myself to, er, lunch there last week. Yes, very naughty ... but very, very nice! There is a youthful buzz about the place, with a lovely young team ready and waiting to serve.  

But what to choose? A warm waffle? A chocolate covered cone? A sundae? No. As soon as I saw crepes on the menu, I was sold. And very delicious it was too. When it comes to crepes, I am very much a sugar and lemon sort of girl, so the Classic Crepe (which comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a good squirt of whipped cream) suited me just fine – and at £3.50 I thought it very reasonable.  But I could have gone for something more exotic like Maple Me Up or Chocolate Heaven. The waffles also sounded delicious: there was the basic Canadian (again I was very tempted), Nice N’Nutty and Strawberry Sensation to name but three. Then there’s a long list of ice-cream sundaes: Eton Mess (with strawberry cheesecake, fresh strawberries and all the trimmings); Mint Choc Chunk, Nutty Buddy, Oreo Cooke Creation ... the list goes on!! Or you could go traditional with a banana split or good ol’ knickerbocker glory. There is even a Gelato burger – scoops of ice cream in a brioche bun ... sounds good to me!

Despite me always picturing, in my mind’s eye, ice-cream parlours as a place where teenagers hung out in the 1950s (and no, I didn’t do it myself – I’m not that old!) this is a place for all ages. While I was there a whole range of ages came through the door – grandparents with their little pride and joy; a mother and young daughter (I couldn’t help but admire how restrained mum was, choosing a black coffee while daughter indulged in something cool and chocolaty); a group of 30-somethings having a catch up over an ice cream; and three teenagers who asked for one sundae and three spoons between them – and I am pleased to say the staff didn’t raise any eyebrow and were more than happy to oblige. Fantastic.

With seating inside and out (under cover so whatever the weather you will be fine), if you like proper Italian ice cream (with no preservatives) get yourself down to Gelato Joe’s. Bet you’ll have a job deciding what to choose!

Biddy x