Pumpkins at RHS Rosemoor

So many pumpkins! As we entered the gardens at RHS Rosemoor in Devon last Friday our first stop was the trestle tables stacked long and high with pumpkins. Some I recognised, some made me laugh, some I’ve grown, some that looked ugly and all colours too, I mean just look:

pumpkins at RHS Rosemoor

How many did you recognise?

I’m sure the blue/grey one is a Crown Prince, and there’s definitely some onion or Red Kuri squash which I’ve grown in the past. The fact that these are the two I easily recognised shows which type of pumpkins I like. Both of these have dense sweet flesh, which is quite unlike the watery flesh of the pumpkins that are often carved for Halloween.

pumpkins of all shapes and sizes
small pumpkins

More recently I’ve outsourced my pumpkin growing (and potato growing for that matter) to dad often arriving with potatoes to be planted out or a packet of pumpkin seeds as part of a Christmas present. And then later in the year leaving with the fully grown crops, which works very well for me. I’m still hoping for some of these blue/grey pumpkins, although I think I could quite happily skip the longer gourd-like one in the photo below.

blue pumpkins and long thin ones

Further into the garden, in the greenhouse in the vegetable garden, there were yet more pumpkins. These decorating the shelves and ledges and looking just as fantastic here as they did at the garden’s entrance. We ate in the cafe, sharing a ploughman’s and a cream tea, mainly because we couldn’t decide whether to have lunch or tea and cake, and so did the next best thing and did both.

rows of pumpkins in the greenhouse

The cafe uses the produce grown in the garden, and I’ve a feeling that the next few months will involve a fair bit of pumpkin! Luckily it’s a versatile ingredient isn’t it? Although often it’ll become a soup with chilli (they had a few of those on the go too), I do keep meaning to be a little more adventurous and perhaps try some pumpkin scones, or pumpkin jam or curd.

I do have a Norfolk pumpkin (one grown by dad) to use but I’m not sure how just yet. My other favourite pumpkin meal is wedges roasted with chilli and garlic and served with brown rice and some homemade spiced ketchup. It’s a wholesome meal, but one that tastes oh so good too.

chillies in the greenhouse at rhs rosemoor

Before I go off to browse even more pumpkin recipes, there was one last one that made me smile at Rosemoor, and that’s this one.

One pumpkin which has grown through the archway remains

It was the only one left clinging to the arched walkway, which had it not been wouldn’t have given a clue that they were grown here, and I’d have been none the wiser. This one though had wedged its way between the gaps, and the only way to shift it would be to cut the flesh.

That’s one wily pumpkin…

Enjoying Castle Howard

Before I even start editing my photos from the weekend in Devon I thought we could all do with some Yorkshire blue skies to remind us of that glorious summer, before our memories are washed away with all the rain we’ve had lately. I don’t know about you but the (relatively) short downpours, which seem as if someone’s turned a shower on, are a bit like running the gauntlet aren’t they?

So far I’ve still avoided being caught in the worst of them, although yesterday I did have a couple of attempts to leave the house, stuck my nose out the door and delayed it for a few minutes before trying again. I was lucky that this didn’t go on for the whole day, but when I did choose to step out with every intention of getting the bus, I realised it wasn’t quite so bad after all and the walk was quite enjoyable.

But that’s not the blue Yorkshire skies, is it? These are though.

Castle Howard against the blue Yorkshire sky

Before we caught our first glimpse of Castle Howard we’d spent quite some time exploring the Walled Garden, which was by far my favourite part of our day. We’ll come to that part I’m sure, but blue skies are what’s needed I think, and these are seriously blue skies. The fountains in front of the house really show off the sky, and even the algae looks pretty.

The fountains at Castle Howard

The exterior of Castle Howard evokes so many memories of Brideshead Revisited, for me, the one from the 1980s which although I wasn’t an avid watcher, I was a fan mainly of Jeremy Irons, and was keen to take a look round the exhibition in the house. And when I did I realised just how much my admission of not being an avid watcher was true, and how much I’d forgotten, or perhaps didn’t even know from this iconic series.

One of the "wings" looking majestic

The grounds are extensive and provided plenty of space for visitors to enjoy without being on top of each other. For me that’s one of the best things about visiting places like this, having space enough to make believe it’s yours for the short while you’re there. Although this one was a push, even for me.

Looking across the lake at Castle Howard
framing the lake with the grasses

The lake was huge and provided a great place for a stroll, and some great pictures which emphasise the space available.

reflections in the lake at Castle Howard

It’s calming isn’t it? And a great place to visit, after our stroll around the lake we headed through the grounds to the Temple of the Four Winds, which I’ve already shared here. So if you want a double burst of blue skies, head over there and soak that sky up too!

In the meantime, don’t forget your brolly again today…

Dinner at Bill's in Greenwich

What better way than to deal with the darker evenings than head out for a celebratory dinner? And that’s just what we did on Tuesday after the team at Bill’s got in touch. They’ve recently refurbished their restaurant in Greenwich and invited me along to experience it for myself. Working in Greenwich, I’ve walked past the restaurant many a time and having spotted they were having some work done, made a mental note to pop in at some point. Of course, I promptly forgot - my brain’s even more of a sieve than normal at the moment, and so I was pleased to have the perfect excuse to take a closer peek at their new look.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Lights feature heavily in the decor, and the whole effect is characteristically quirky - the decor I mean - if you’re here to learn about the food, I wasn’t disappointed with that either. Sometimes I struggle to choose off a menu, but it was good to be torn between a couple of the options. I deliberated for a while, but in the end went for the burger as I often think you can tell a lot about a restaurant by its burger. This one with the extra cheese and bacon was good, and MOH helped me finish it all (and his own meal too).

 LARGE SHADES, DARK NIGHTS

LARGE SHADES, DARK NIGHTS

My photos don’t do the space justice, but it’s cosy with multiple light sources which you’ll know I think is important for any space. When we arrived at the restaurant we were pleasantly surprised to find it moderately occupied, it’s always a worry isn’t it on an early in the week night, that it might just be you and the staff in the place, but that wasn’t the case.

In fact arriving from a chilly, dark evening our welcome couldn’t have been more different. All of the staff were cheery and friendly in a way that felt genuine rather than forced, and that says a lot about the team at Bill’s. That’s hard to achieve and make natural if it isn’t, or if staff aren’t happy - we’ve all been to restaurants where they plaster on a smile and go through the motions, and this wasn’t that place.

 INDUSTRIAL VENTING, AND WHAT LOOKS LIKE A STATION CLOCK

INDUSTRIAL VENTING, AND WHAT LOOKS LIKE A STATION CLOCK

 MANY DIFFERENT LIGHT SOURCES, ALL OF WHICH I ADMIRED

MANY DIFFERENT LIGHT SOURCES, ALL OF WHICH I ADMIRED

We shared a calamari and Bill’s spiced tortillas to start and both didn’t hang around for long. I remembered to take some pictures of the food, yes I know that makes a change, but that all went out the window when our main courses arrived; mine was a burger with the trimmings and MOH opted for the pan-fried chicken with truffle and wild mushrooms. I didn’t need to ask him if it was good, as he wasn’t for sharing and that’s usually what it means, and I wasn’t wrong.

 CALAMARI

CALAMARI

 PRETTY CROCKERY

PRETTY CROCKERY

 TEALIGHTS

TEALIGHTS

 GIANT TORTILLAS

GIANT TORTILLAS

Of course, I was keen to check out the loos. Not only because that’s a good indicator of elsewhere in the restaurant, but also because given the decor downstairs, the signs were good. Once I got upstairs, the signs were better; the upstairs dining space had an air of a twenties-inspired French restaurant to me, with the same lights from the downstairs space used again here for continuity.

 DINING ELEGANTLY

DINING ELEGANTLY

 A COSY TABLE FOR TWO

A COSY TABLE FOR TWO

The loos had their own personality too with their almost arsenic green walls and gilt mirrors. The space was relatively small so I couldn’t stretch to its own #LooSeries post with just two photos, but perhaps on another visit. As I’m sure I’ll be back, whether it’s a team lunch, a night after work with my girlfriends, or with MOH after work when a decent meal is needed, but neither of us want to cook - I’m not the only ones that has evenings like that, am I?

 OF COURSE I CHECKED OUT THE LOOS!

OF COURSE I CHECKED OUT THE LOOS!

 YOU EXPECTED ME TOO, RIGHT?

YOU EXPECTED ME TOO, RIGHT?

Remember that I said lights feature heavily in the decor? Well, that’s before I’d even seen this chandelier which hangs above the staircase. Isn’t it grand?

 HOW ABOUT THAT FOR A CHANDELIER

HOW ABOUT THAT FOR A CHANDELIER

I said before the decor was full of character, but it’s also full of the unexpected. The chandelier above and the textured anaglypta-like bar below. I love this style, but I know it’s the style that makes MOH twitch, remember he is the man that tried to dust a bottle of wine once that had been given the “dust effect” treatment. I’m certain I’d struggle to swing this as decor in our own house, and so when we’re out it’s the kind of eclectic style I drool over.

 AN ANAGLYPTA TEXTURED BAR

AN ANAGLYPTA TEXTURED BAR

 BUTTERFLIES TOO

BUTTERFLIES TOO

Once I’d explored the restaurant, in my usual understated way (or at least I hope it was understated) the best dessert on the menu arrived, and clearly on the best plate of the restaurant too. Sticky toffee and date pudding which arrived with a golden date and clotted cream ice cream - I think we both had a moment where we wished we hadn’t agreed to share.

 OFFICIALLY, THE BEST PUDDING (AND PLATE)

OFFICIALLY, THE BEST PUDDING (AND PLATE)

We had a great night, the restaurant had great ambience, the decor was just up my street, the service was good and MOH’s company was pretty good too. What’s even better is that the wait for the bus home was minimal too. I’m sure I’ll be going back to Bill’s and when we’re out and about I’ll be checking to see if they have restaurants nearby, hoping that they could match our “home” restaurant in Greenwich.

* With thanks to Bill’s Greenwich for the invitation to try out their recently refurbished restaurant. As usual all views in this collaborative post are my own.

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