A toast to Sunderland’s finest! 

Years ago the North of England was regarded as one of the great areas for industry. Many thought that anywhere past Watford was ‘Grim’.  Coal was big business and raw materials were in high demand. It was a ‘golden age’.  These days the North of England seems to have lost most of that industry that made it prosperous.


Sunderland ( A shipbuilding town), in particular, was one of those such towns that had it all. Much of that is gone now but what remains is the stoic determination for something great again.  That dream, that desire, might just be becoming to fruition.

Just look at neighbouring  Tynemouth and you might think your in Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds   Not only are fabulous independent shops on the high street but also the gastro-scene is flourishing. Posh shops everywhere and London prices – the only thing missing is the Hunter Welly’s !  Having looked out from Rileys Fish Shack (Below) just 2 weeks ago the gastro-scene had truly arrived!

TM The Grape Wizard

TM The Grape Wizard

Fish and Chips on the Beach – How Victorian and totally stress free

(No London life allowed here !)


™TheGrapeWizard.com – Turbot & Capers with Samphire YUM YUM

The creativity built out of 2 * 40ft containers is there to see – great food cooked to order and craft beer on tap.


TM Rileys Fish Shack

carefully selected beer and ale from some of the regions favorite brewers including

Wylam Brewery,
Almasty Brewing Co
Three Kings Brewery
Allendale Brewery.

Good choice of wine also adds to the experience. Not only was the food good for the stomach but the experience was good for the soul   All fish 🐟 was unusual – even the ugly gurnard was on the menu.  Just shows you we don’t have to be reliant on cod and haddock all the time.!!

If there is a lesson here it is the determination of a business to showcase talent to the local economy in the hope of greater things. Such is the determination up in the North of England that other businesses have taken the step to modernise and become uber-cool in recent years –  Alnwick gardens, The Sage and the Baltic in Gateshead all benefiting from a revamp !

Even the Angel of the North champion’s optimism and the hope for the future !


Then…. just the other day i was driving into Sunderland  and drove through a ‘suburb’ of Sunderland – Roker


and saw “Poetic License ” adorned on a hotel wall. Further investigation highlights a fabulous gin distillery.

It Achieved a Gin Masters Award and Gin of the Year Award 2015. Set up by a guy who worked in the hospitality industry. This is a Gin/s to try I thought!.

Here is the range



 Northern Dry Gin £34.95 thefoodmarket.com

Juniper, Cardamom, Pepper, Citrus.

43.2% Vol.

Expect a big fistful of juniper that is complemented with green cardamom to warm the heart on an Autumnal evening . Undertones of lemon and eucalyptus together with Persian lime intensifies the citrus feel  GW score 4*

Good for Negroni and the sharp citrus flavour of a classic Gin Sour

Old Tom Gin £34.95 thefoodmarket.com

Juniper, Sweetness, Rose, Oak

41.6% Vol.

A sweeter and more peppery taste compared to the Dry Gin. Oak casks add a woody flavour and colour to the Gin. Rose petals infuse a distinct character to the sweetness as well as a rose gold tinge.

Mixing Tips:  Old Tom Gin suits subtle cocktail recipes. Ingredients like lavender and rose give it a good balance GW Score 3*

Graceful Vodka £32.50 MasterofMalt.com

Smooth, Pure, Subtle Sweetness.

40.4% Vol.

 a smooth spirit, to be sipped and savoured.

Created entirely from British wheat giving a velvety smooth texture,

Mixing Tips: Cocktails with a lighter citrus flavour = GIMLETS. Avoid mixers with too much acidic content try a dry Vodka Martini

Fireside Gin £34.95 Poetic License

Mulled Winter Fruit and Juniper

40.1% Vol.

This gin is a winter warmer, your granny’s favourite blanket on your knee. Very wintery.  Juniper, coriander and orris root give it its base flavours whilst a sweetness from dried winter fruits and a zingy freshness from clementine.

The mulling spice blend of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg gives a warming flavour reminiscent of your favourite seasonal treats, sure to warm you from the inside out!

Mixing Tips: Try Winter Cocktails – Poetic License  like it ” hot, served with ginger ale warmed through with a little honey and extra mulling spices.” Try It!

The citrus edge also makes a delicious white lady.”

They also do a whole host of seasonal stuff GW Score 4*

Click to see more of the Guys from P.L.


Gracie – She does all the work and surely deserves a medal – at the very least a mention

Having tried the Northern Gin last night (22nd Sept 2017 ) I have to say it’s one of the most stand out gins I’ve tried   Up there with Herno Gin and  Icelandic Vor Gin . All too often gins can loose there distinct style and flavour. Poetic Licence Northern Gin seems to be spot on.

The growing market for sipping gins seems to be growing – using more richer flavours and combining that with your favourite music seems to enhance the experience.

Some of you may have noticed that I havn’t put up a blog for a few weeks. My father in law has been battling with a long term illness. Obviously this week is a little more personal than normal but it is only fitting to finish this weeks blog with a tribute to a man who lived and loved life.  Tom introduced me to many a fine whiskey in the company of Robert Zimmerman (click here to find out more!). . 

Perhaps it is some sort of ‘poetic licence’ to have discovered a gin called ‘Old Tom’ made in his home town in the week he passed away. He is now immortalised

So here’s to you Tom  🍻 – You did a fabulous job as a Father, Mentor and a Guardian.  You are a true inspiration – an example of what all of us should be as individuals and you did it without trying. You will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Since beginning this blog and finishing it I am now sadly dedicating this piece to you.

Cheers !


This weeks music pairing 



GW Spirits Rating

  • 1* Not very interesting, boring branding, expensive cost price for product
  • 2*Branding improving, showing signs of some thing interesting. Good value for money
  • 3* Middle of the road product, not good value for money and not too expensive.    Simlar products on the market make it generic
  • 4*Unique in character and good value for money
  • 5* Inventive, unique in character, visually fabulous together with a favourable cost price

From Montelauro to Ochio Rias – well almost!! Just a little closer and arguably a lot prettier ! 

Having spent a wonderful 2 weeks in Puglia 2 years ago I thought this time would be time repeating itself .  Puglia has grown to be one of my favourite places in the world. Gone are the glitzy sidewalks of California.  Gone are the elegant Parisian pavements. Even the mere hint of a passigiata is rarely seen.  I was here ( with the better half ) for a wedding down in the heart ❤️ of Italy. In a place where only locals go and in a place so tranquil you can hear a cat 🐱 tiptoe.

The wedding was for a good work friend of mine and his long suffering (now) wife  The hotel was fabulous and so was the hospitality. (Please visit the website : Montelauro)


I did have a booking at grotto palazzese (Restaurant in the rocks) but having read the  reviews i saw that you would be paying premium rate just to have the chance of sitting at potentially 1 of 6 tables sea-side with overated food and super expensive bills  . The odds were against it we declined this time !. We had earlier in the week visited La sommita and that was out of this world (michelin starred and didnt dissapoint !)


Because the Wallet was in meltdown we opted for this view from the terrace of the restaurant in Monopoli …


Wasn’t a hard choice to make !!!

We settled for  Terrace restaurant . Fabulous setting and super great location. We watched the 🌅 and settled down to 3 courses. Being a seaside town we had a glorious choice of the best fish. What we got was very average  squid 🐙 and dishes that were a bit bland. It seems like this part of Italy has the sun and location but what lets them down is  the lack of specialist abilities that offer modern twist on cooking.  It’s not often I refuse food but this time too much of one thing made me feel 🤢. Great atmosphere,great location just ok food !

One thing Puglia has to its credit is the emerging cottage industry that is gin and olive oil and the very recent observation that Italian cooking is getting modern and sexy.

( Cucini Komera)


Late on in the week long holiday we stayed in a lovely apartment hosted by Albergo diffuse –  A stones throw from all the action of Monopoli

We even found through chatting to locals that there was a guy who was making gin out of olive oil EVO Gin

Wine 🍷 we bought primitivo a lovely gin (with cinnemon )& negramaro


(All three will be tasted and reported on , i promise )

but here are the links in the meantime

Quota 29

Jerry Thomas project


 So after a busy week  which felt like a 2 week holiday we were ready to return to the uk.

In essence this holiday could be life changing. A lot of love was felt for this region but is this experience mearly just a dream or will we jump off into the unkown , only time will tell. Reading between the lines i think what will happen is that this event contributed to what’s about to happen   Enriching the soul ( and I’m not spiritual) is becoming a central part to most people’s lives as we grow ever more stressed at the day to day .9-5

Apologies for short blog this week



House of Tides : Fabulous Michélin starred experience, got carried away with the Tyne and place.


House of Tides

28-30 The Close

Tyne and Wear




Nestled in the busom of Newcastle’s 7 bridges lies a building that almost goes unnoticed. It lies there as a homage to the history of this northeastern town.  Newcastle is a haven for wedding parties on a weekend but under the hubbub of all things loud and brash lies the House of Tides.  This unassuming building has won :

Michelin Guide, One Michelin Star 2016, 2017

3 AA Rosettes 2015, 2016, 2017

AA UK Restaurant Of The Year 2015-2016
Sunday Times Top 100 UK Restaurants 2017


Kennie and Abbie  are owners of the House of Tides. It is a 60 cover restaurant set over 2 floors. the lower floor has original 400 year old flagstones (see photo above) whilst up stairs has oak beams open fireplace and views over the tyne. It is casual and informal yet sophisticated. Quality is in evidence with not only the decor but the food. Kenny has a passion for seasonal ingredients sourced around the northeast and manifests itself in modern dishes with an ever-changing tasting menu for both lunch and dinner.

Fabulous cocktails !!!

My self and my better half (sister and brother in law) opted for Tasting menu. Food paired with wine. An inspired choice.

1st Course

Lindesfarne Oysters , cucumber & caviar

Cavendish Ridgeview Sussex England 2014

Two things I’ve never tried lobster and oysters.  More to do with trying at their best and not the thought of a slimy sea creature going down my throat   On this night the first dish was the lindesfarne oyster. Super soft and super delicate. Something I will never forget. This was an important moment for me and the time wasn’t spoilt. It was delicious dish perfectly complemented by a fabulous sparkling wine from the South of England   Fresh and vibrant

Tasting notes

Chardonnay dominant – making it fresh and crisp with pinot noir (depth and complexity) and Pinot meunier (rustiness)  Light golden in colour with a fine mousse, aromas of citrus melon and honey. Can be drunk now but will age. (up to 4 -5 years)

2nd Course

Scallop Rhubarb & Larson Dill

Simple dishes are normally the most spectacular. And the scallop was no exception the rhubarb was just the right sweetness and the dill complemented the dish with a gentle herbaceous freshness this was finished off by a fab white burgundy

La Croix Chardonnay pouilly fuisse Domain Robert-Denogent Burgundy France 2014 –wonderful lemony nose with touches of pear and honeysuckle. Fresh fruit with a touch of minerality. You would almost feel your drinking better than you actually are!!! perfect accompaniment to the scallops. Good acidity

3rd course

Sea Bass Asparagus & Mussels

Can’t say too much about this dish – the photo says it all! . The NZ Ataware Sauvignon Blanc 2015 was a white that was full of herbaceous notes  complimented by orange zest and lime. The palate was cleansed by a crisp fresh and elegant finish – full of acidity. Top top match !

NZ SB 2015

4th Course

Lamb & Hen of the woods with lovage

Wowser! = Hen of the woods. Anyone not tried this fungus is loosing out . Not only is it soft and savoury it also has a strong flavour of pepperyness . A not so popular mushroom this “little fella’ ” almost took over the whole dish. The lamb was perfectly cooked and did not disappoint. Complemented by the mushroom and the lovage the 3 ingredients worked perfectly.

Psi Tempranillo Dominio de Pingus Rivera del Duero Spain 2012


Dark dense and silky red  blueberries and cherries. Chalky feel in the mouth with a long finish. Medium bodied with a character that nods back to the previous two years. It an understated star.

5th course

Gariguette 🍓 curry leaf 🍃

Fresh strawberries in a kind of mousse with a gentle curry leaf to take the edge of the sweetness. A great change from all the previous tasting dishes. Light and fresh

Riesling spatlese gunderloch rheinhessen Germany 🇩🇪 2015 Sweet ripe fruit mango peach an spicy fruit finish complexity of peach and tangerine – great acidity from a top vintage.

Dark chocolate 🍫 hazelnut

Very rich and very decadent  has to have a wine that competes with this richness. ordinarily i would suggest elysium from the US but in this instance a sweet red desert wine from southern france matched the dark flavours.

Grenache noir vin flux natural  Jean Marc Lafage Maury Rouillson France 2015

One thing this restaurant does is makes the whole experience unpretentious and not in the least bit stuffy. Everything is without stress and has top class table service. Even the upstairs with its wonky floor ( a sign off its originality) and simple dishes make this experience  as relaxed as you can get – even to the most nervous and inexperienced foodie. As you can see from the blog there is a lot of information that is described here that was not evident at the meal. All carefully chosen wines  (Pingus is a top winery in Spain. 2015 is a great year for Riesling in Germany and a carefully chosen sparkling  wine from England shows the care and attention that this place deserves it michelin star.

Go and Visit  !

House of Tides website