Hanky Panky in Chester

Hanky Panky Pancakes, Chester 

Not that type of hanky panky, you bunch of deviants.  I’m talking about a great new pancake emporium in the city of Chester.  It’s a laid back, homely place with literally tons of tasty grub – all featuring pancakes in some form or other.

The Platinum family visited Hanky Panky pancakes recently whilst on a day trip to Chester.  If you know the town centre at all, you’ll know Commonhall Street.  For the uninitiated, it’s tucked away off Upper Bridge Street, but very easy to find.

We popped in for a mid afternoon break, and were happy to find a novel and delicious base for a spot of nourishment.

Basically, at Hanky Panky anything you can think of related to pancakes will be found.  Different types of pancakes, served either savoury or sweet – your choice.

On this visit, it was mid afternoon so I opted for something sweet: the amazing Rocky Road.  This consisted of pancakes adorned with chocolate chips, marshmallows, rocky road ice cream and chocolate sauce.  As an irredeemable choc fiend, this was pure ecstasy!

I enjoyed a Fentimans Cherry Tree cola with my treat, which was very good.

The rest of the family also enjoyed sweet pancake joy, though I can’t remember what they ordered.  Mine was the best, anyway.

Our trip to Hanky Panky was really appreciated by all of us.  We hope to make another trip soon – maybe next time I’ll go earlier and opt for a savoury choice.  The “El Matador” (chorizo and sun dried tomatoes) sounds incredible.

All in all, recommended for a different family treat food-wise in Chester, that you’ll want to visit again.

Hanky Panky Pancakes, 20 Commonhall Street, Chester CH1 2BJ.

01244 319225

The Hanky Panky website is here.

The Great British Choc Off

Which is best – Cadbury Dairy Milk or Galaxy?

Chocoholics rejoice – for one of the greatest chocolate guzzling times of the year is nearly upon us.  For verily, we shall gorge upon the delicious brown confection till we are fit to burst.

But the age old question still stands: what is best, Cadbury or Galaxy chocolate?

I have been plagued by this conundrum for many a long year, until finally deciding to put this to a scientific test.  So I engaged the help of colleagues in a quantifiable research scenario that would answer the problem definitively.

Now in this particular test, to reduce the amount of variables, I dictated that the subjects were to compare only Cadbury Dairy Milk and Galaxy chocolate bars.  None of this Fruit & Nut/Caramel/Cookies and Cream/Ripple deviousness – this was to be a pure Choc Off between the staple brands.

Though to be fair, those variations are damn fine (except for Fruit & Nut, which is an evil mutation).

So I ask again:

Which do you prefer: Cadbury Dairy Milk or Galaxy chocolate? 

Here are the results from my stringently selected test group:

Galaxy was chosen by: Karen, Kirsty, Claire, Hannah, Bridget, Liam, Laura and myself.

Cadbury was chosen by: Joey, Steve, Simon, Pete, Dan, James, Dave, Wayne, Paul, Chris, Helen and Anne-Marie.

So the evidence proves that Cadbury chocolate is the more popular choice over Galaxy., with 12 votes to 8.

Some interesting data is revealed in this test.  For example, those favouring Galaxy were mostly (but not exclusively) female, with the reverse true for Cadbury.  Of course, this could just mean that the more amateur choc fans are largely male, choosing the Cadbury option…

Either way, my investigation revealed that Cadbury was the victor.  I’ll have to conduct further tests.

Disclaimer: although I voted Galaxy, I’d like to point out that I am a fan of Cadbury chocolate too.  It’s a very tough decision to make.  It’s not like I’d turn down Dairy Milk!  Or any chocolate for that matter.  That ain’t gonna happen.

Thanks to my ever reliable colleagues for their opinions in this research.  Next time: what’s the correct pronunciation of “scone”?

Food Quest: Chez Jules, Chester

Chez Jules, Chester

OK, so I have to admit: French food is not really my thing.  I love France, having travelled there many times, but other than the fabled Croque Monsieur I could take or leave the grub.  Or most Northern European food, for that matter.  Typically, I much prefer more exotic fare.

I was to be pleasantly surprised by Chez Jules, however.

The restaurant has been offering French meals for many years, though I have never visited before.  I was tagging along in a family party.  Chez Jules was immediately impressive with its continental style and warm welcome.

We were visiting on a Tuesday evening, when Chez Jules offers a pretty unbeatable offer: two courses and a bottle of wine for just £17.50 each.  That’s a whole bottle of wine, to myself.  With two courses of food.  Absolutely crazy.

The menu changes regularly, but appears to offer a wide variety of temptations.  For my entrees, I opted for pork rillettes, served with caramalised onion chutney and toasted French bread.  That didn’t mean much to me, but I can tell you I was reminded of pate in style.  As always with pate, I ran short of toast – however the excellent staff had provided bread for the table, so I hoovered that up as well.  Fantastic start.cj1

For the main, or “plats de resistance”, I ordered a pork, apricot and sage roulade, with potato puree and red wine jus.  Think along the lines of a little dome of pulled pork.  This was an exceptionally tasty centre for my meal.  “Jus” turns out to be like gravy, which was a bit of a relief as I was slurping the (very good!) red wine too easily.  I think I was worried that Chez Jules would realise their offer was ridiculous and would want their wine back.

The main courses were accompanied by vegetables (potatoes, broccoli, carrots etc) – plenty to be shared amongst us.  This was the only part of the meal that left me under whelmed – I’ve never been a fan of vegetables of this type.  No fun at all.

However such is the standard of French (and English) food, so to be scathing here would be like complaining in a Mexican restaurant that they don’t do fish’n’chips.  Plus the dauphinoise potatoes were pretty fine.

To finish my meal off, I couldn’t resist a dessert.  I had a chocolate and raspberry confection – it was like a mousse – served with creme fraiche.  This was new to the menu, me being the guinea pig.  And I could have pigged  out all day on this, it was wonderful!

My visit to Chez Jules left me very happy and somewhat surprised.  The food, though not my personal choice, turned out to be extremely good.  The Tuesday night deal was unbelievable value and the staff were professional, yet friendly and down to earth.  I would definitely visit again.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Confusing menu choices but you can’t go wrong – very tasty.  Even the vegetables!
  • Drink: I drank red wine.  No complaints what so ever.  Bargain.
  • Service: Professional and friendly.
  • Cost: Go on a Tuesday.  Surely the best value ever?!

Chez Jules, 71 Northgate Street, Chester CH1 2HQ

01244 400014

The Chez Jules website is here.

Rancid Rock

In which our intrepid adventurers explore a world of oddly flavoured confectionery…

For our recent trip to Sci Fi Weekender in north Wales, my compadres and I were well stocked with food and drink.  Along with the usual savoury food stuffs, there was plenty of sweet: chocolate, cakes, Twinkies.  All the good stuff.

And yet, with the reckless abandon of enthusiasm and the bravado of beer, we were destined for far murkier waters.

Some time previously, I had purchased some novelty rock on a trip to Rhyl.  You know what rock is – long cylindrical sticks; usually peppermint flavoured; either chewy or (as the name suggests) hard and brittle.  Brightly coloured sticks of sugar, the quintessential seaside souvenir.  IMG_3995

It was three sticks for a quid, and I bought these flavours:

  • Chicken Tikka
  • Fish’n’Chips
  • Cookie Dough

After a few beers one night, I decided it was time to experiment with these substances and see what the effects were.  Here are my observations.

Chicken Tikka

Now I love Indian food.  However Chicken Tikka rock is not to die for.  Imagine, if you will, the miserable surprise of sweet tasting rock being replaced by a vaguely spicy Asian flavour.  My brain thought a cruel trick was being played on it.  The rock was chewy rather than hard.  The taste was bland; with a strange, mild spiciness.  Like licking a stick of celery that had been waved near a curry flavoured Pot Noodle.  The only good thing is that this rock wasn’t hot spicy at all, just leaving an insipid warmth on the tongue.  Totally vile.

Disgusto rating: 3/5

Fish’n’Chips

Next up was the Fish’n’Chips flavour.  Now what could go wrong – the amalgamation of two British seaside classics, rock that tastes of fish and chips?  More like what couldn’t go wrong.  The chewy rock was strangely missing the traditional sweetness, instead it was a truly bland flavour with a remote hint of ancient battered cod.  But the smell of it was utterly putrid – a million maritime nightmares sheltering in the salty cove of your mouth.  Plain sailing this was not – Fish’n’Chips rock is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Like that time when, as a kid, you fell over while paddling in the sea; and got a mouth  full of salty seawater, seaweed, and dead crab.

Disgusto rating: 5/5

Cookie Dough

After the previous monstrosity, I was actually looking forward to Cookie Dough flavour.  Surely this one would be OK?  After all, the previous two varieties suffered from the juxtaposition of sweet becoming savoury.  No such luck.  Cookie Dough, despite being generally fantastic when added to ice cream, does no favours for rock.  It just tasted of aniseed.  Big disappointment.  Like being given an Easter Egg that looks great, but tastes of punch in the face.

Disgusto rating: 2/5

All in all not an experience I would like to repeat.  Though it was pretty funny…

Here’s what my friends had to say about the whole sorry affair:

Adam: “They smelt like the arse hole of a dead badger and pretty sure that’s what they tasted like too….  I can still taste it now late at night when it’s quiet in the house and I’m alone in my thoughts.”

Greeny: “I only tried the fish one, I didn’t dare try any others after that cos I wanted to die.  It tasted like cat shit and feet, wrapped in a thong that Jordan had worn for a month.  And it smelt pretty much like that too.”

Questions #11: Chocolate bars

I love a bit of chocolate, me.  I often indulge my love of the delicious sweet, and I’m regularly spoiled for choice when carefully selecting which treat to go for.  At this time of year, I look forward to (hopefully) receiving a selection box of choc bars that I can guzzle.

So I decided to find out what the favourite chocolate bars were amongst my friends.

The choices were limited to the sort of chocolate bars that you can buy in a sweet shop, or the confectionery counter of a newsagent.  Boxes of chocolates – such as Milk Tray or Roses – wouldn’t count.  Neither would chocolate cake or chocolate digestive biscuits.

Also, the choice would have to be actual chocolate – so the vote  I received for Highland Toffee was also discounted.  I allowed Caramac, though – because Caramac is great, and I make the rules.

Q: What’s your favourite chocolate bar?

Helen – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Steve O – Munchies

Jen – Twirl

Simon B – Double Decker (from the fridge)

Karen – Spira

Chris A – Wispa

Claire H – Toblerone

Jamie H – Daim

Jack H – Lindor chocolate

Laura J – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Mike R – Yorkie Raisin & Biscuit

Kirsty R – Picnic

Dan G – Yorkie Raisin & Biscuit

Brett H – Starbar

Mark H – Wispa

Gary B – Starbar

Mandy – Starbar

Snips – Starbar

Sadie – Starbar

Mike Stone – Marathon (that’s a Snickers, kids!)

Michaela – Starbar

Naresh – Caramac

Steve W – Double Decker

Ben – Wispa (sorry, Ben – took this as your default choice!)

Claire W – Picnic

Sara-Jane – Green & Black’s Ginger

Abigail R – Freddo

Greeny – Double Decker

Kiaran – Lion bar

Kate L – Finger of Fudge

Danny “Chef” Burke – Wispa

Claire B – Double Decker

Neil C – Caramac

Chris J – Fry’s Five Centres

Cathryn R – Nestle Dairy Crunch (white)

Kathryn W – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Bryn – Marathon

Shaun C – Texan bar

Jazbo – Texan bar

Corrine – Galaxy

Urien – Wispa Gold

Lee T – Picnic

Steph C – Wispa Gold

Lisa P – Cadbury Fuse

Vanessa – Fry’s Turkish Delight

Me – Galaxy

The result?  It’s a draw!

Both Wispa and Starbar received six votes each.  Although I did count Wispa Gold in with the other Wispas…

Double Decker put in a brave fight to come third.

I tried a Starbar after this poll, just for research, you see.  It was quite nice, but I didn’t like the nuts.  For me, nuts shouldn’t be in chocolate.  Peanuts should be served salted with a nice beer.

I’ll happily leave this poll as a draw, safe in the knowledge that the dreaded – and totally over-rated Crunchie – didn’t show it’s evil face.

Food Quest: The White Bear

The White Bear, Mancot

Not too long ago, Mrs Platinum Al and I went for a meal at the White Bear in sunny Mancot.  I should say “another meal”, as we’ve been there many times.  Here’s a quick round up of our experience.

The White Bear is a great little village pub.  There are numerous events throughout the week – every week – making it a lively, welcoming place.  Drinks are affordable – no-one’s getting ripped off.  The food is also affordable – but unlike many other local boozers, the grub manages to be damn good stuff.

Our starters were mushroom and brie bake (for her, you must know what I think about mushrooms by now); and chicken wings for me.  Both great.  The wings were tasty but no overkill on the spice, a commendable job.  My only suggestion would be to provide a finger bowl for this, and other messy food such as ribs.  31029-1_main

Despite the pub being very busy on the evening we visited, the staff were very helpful and attentive.  You can buy drinks at the bar, or one of the waiting staff can bring them over for you.  They are battle hardened and ready to move tables and seats around, provide advice and attempt any task to help their customers.

The main courses were The Legendary Fish and Chips for her; and Kick Ass Chicken for moi.  The fish and chips are indeed the stuff of legend: you get three substantial fish goujons plus chunky chips and good ol’ mushy peas.  Highly recommended – I can speak from experience.

The Kick Ass chicken is not a pretend superhero.  It is in fact a dish consisting of chicken and bacon topped with cheese, in a tangy barbecue sauce.  What’s kick ass about that?  I forgot to mention the JALAPENOS.  Served with chips and peas, this meal is pleasantly spicy, but soon warms up.  By the end, the Kick Ass chicken totally kicked my ass.  But in an “I’ll be back for more next time” way.

For dessert, Mrs Platinum Al went for a brandy snap basket with ice cream and toffee sauce.  I indulged in toblerone cheesecake – never before experienced, my mouth soon forgave me for the jalapenos.

Personally, I cannot believe how the White Bear manages to provide such excellent food – consistently, I might add – for a reasonable price.  There’s plenty of choice on the menu, the surroundings are warm – I can’t recommend it highly enough.  This is pub grub, done the right way – and so much better than the local rivals*.  Good size portions, great taste – the White Bear ticks all the boxes.

Food Quest Test

  • Food: Great taste, large portions
  • Drink: Affordable = good.  A mid strength quality lager would be great (ie bring back Stella 4%!)
  • Service: Friendly, helpful
  • Environment: Traditional pub, busy later on
  • Cost: Very reasonsable

The White Bear, Mancot Lane, Mancot, Deeside, Flintshire CH5 2AH

01244 539077

The White Bear Facebook page is here.

The White Bear web page is here.

*Rhymes with Pubic Hair.  You know the one.

Happy Easter from Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

Hope you’re all having a great Easter break.  With plenty of chocolate and not much DIY.

To celebrate, here’s a picture of an Easter Egg I “helped” my three year old daughter make for a competition in school.  As you can see, it’s one of the Minions from Despicable Me (which she’s a big fan of).

It was great fun getting creative and making this egg.  It’s a ceramic egg that can be bought from a supermarket, along with suitable paints.  I sketched the design first, then painted it, and finally used a Sharpie to give the detail.  The hard part was coming up with the idea in the first place!

We think he looks pretty cool – hope you like him. IMG_3076

Christmas Drink of the Week

Chocolate Smarties

Also known as “Chocolate Orange” or “Christmas Smarties”, for some reason this great drink has become linked to the festive season for me.  I can’t remember now how I was first introduced to this tipple (if it was you, and you’re reading this, please remind me); but I’m sure you’ll love it if you try it.

Basically, what we have here is an alcoholic drink that tastes like chocolate orange.  If for some reason that doesn’t entice you, give this a go anyway – you may be pleasantly surprised. IMG_2721

Chocolate Smarties

  • Tia Maria
  • Orange juice
  • Ice

Take a standard tumbler (the glass in the picture is a typical pub half pint glass).  Pour in two measures of Tia Maria.  Add a few ice cubes, then top up with fresh orange juice (the carton type or some good old Britvic).  Enjoy!

Play around with the measure to get a taste you prefer.  You may like a single measure of Tia Maria, you may want more or less orange juice.  Feel free to experiment till you get the desired flavour.

Soundtrack: “Merry Christmas Everybody” – Slade.

Ultimate Banana Milkshake

Back in the Virtual Hot Tub with a new drink recipe.  This one’s a non alcoholic concoction that’s quick and easy to put together.  I like to have one of these for breakfast.  It’s a basic but fun milkshake that only requires a blender to make it happen.  No real skill required!

Ultimate Banana Milkshake

  • 700 ml Milk
  • 2 Bananas
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate cream (squirty variety)

IMG_1992

Peel your two bananas and put them in the blender.  Next, add 700ml of the milk and a teaspoon of sugar.  Hit the “blend” button and watch as everything gets mushed up (don’t forget to put the lid on!).  That’s my favourite part.

When ready, pour out a glass of your milkshake, leaving some room at the top.  Take your can of squirty cream and squeeze a large topping of chocolate on top (this last part is optional).

700ml of milk will make a lot of milkshake – you might want to share (or just be greedy like me, and have all of it).