Bristol vs the world

A travel (and sometimes fashion) blog about exploring Bristol and the rest of the world, one post at a time.

Category: Beach break

Food Friday: Ultracomida, Narbeth

Ultracomida Narberth

You’d think that on the 27th December, stuffing yourself with more food would be the last on anybody’s priority list. But I challenge the fullest of people to remain unhungry after setting foot inside the Ultracomida Delicatessan in Narbeth, Wales.

This lovely Pembrokeshire market town isn’t wanting for cute and quaint shops and restaurants, and from the outside Ultracomida doesn’t immediately jump out. Until you look through the window and start drooling over the selection of meats and cheeses and sweets and other Spanish goodies on display.

And then, at the back of the shop, is the Ultracomida restaurant. And while might look relatively simple (in a nice way), the food is anything but plain.

Between five of us, we polished off the berenjas con miel (cumin roasted aubergines with honey), meatballs, chipirones (breaded, fried squid served with alioli), tortilla, the cheese and meat platters, patatas bravas, and of course some olives and breads. Although all were delicious, my personal favourites were probably the aubergines and chipirones – even my squid-averse sister enjoyed the latter (though let’s be honest, who can dislike anything served with alioli).

Ultracomida Narbeth

And despite the amount of food we’d consumed in the last few days, we couldn’t resist finishing off with the hot chocolate – so thick you had to eat it with a spoon (quite frankly, I don’t understand why this isn’t the norm). Sadly there were no churros available to dunk (representative photo of what they would have looked like in the photo above, to demonstrate chocolate thickness), but it was still delicious. I also may have tried some (a lot) of my Dad’s turrón selection – mainly the one that was described as being a bit like peanut butter. Being a big peanut butter fan, I am slightly biased, but oh my goodness it was amazing.

Ultracomida Narbeth
Sadly the lack of availability was a bit of a theme; visiting towards the end of their opening hours for the day (and possibly due to the time of year), a lot of the dishes had sold out and I think our meat and cheese platters were possibly just made up of what they could pull together. We enjoyed the food we had, but if you want to make sure you get your pick of the dishes then I recommend getting there early.

That minor quibble aside, Ultracomida is well worth a visit next time you’re in the Tenby area. Friendly service, relaxed and unpretentious surroundings and really good food – perfect!

And despite how full you are by the end, I challenge you to not be tempted to take a souvenir of your meal home from you when leaving through the deli.

UltraComida Narberth

The Details
Ultracomida
7 High Street, Narbeth, SA67 7AR
http://www.ultracomida.co.uk/page/restaurants/narberth
Open Monday-Saturday, 10-5pm (last orders 4:30pm). Deli open until 6.
Closed Sundays

Photos all courtesy of Gourmet Gorro

Advertisements

To pack or not to pack #1: A reading round-up

suitcase-books-good-summer-reads

One of the things I love about holidays is how, away from all the distractions of home, you can get through more books in a week than you did in the three months before. However – unless you don’t mind risking using your Kindle or tablet by water or leaving it unattended on a sun lounger – this can make packing tricky. Books aren’t particularly light or pliable, and if you’re anything like me, you often have to make tough decisions about which ones make the final packing cut.

OK I’ll be honest, this slightly long-winded introduction is essentially my roundabout way of justifying doing a regular round-up of my recent reads on a travel blog: do they deserve a precious space in your suitcase? And because I want to start 2015 on a positive note, here are my five favourite reads from last year, all of which are worth risking your weight limit for.

The Power of One

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Not just one of my favourite reads of 2014, but ever. Set in 1930s and 40s South Africa, The Power of One follows Peekay, a white, English boy on his journey from his early years with his Zulu wet nurse, to being bullied as an Englishman in a school of English-hating Afrikaans, through to his later school life and quest to become welterweight champion of the world. Although Peekay himself is lovable, its the supporting characters (especially Geel Piet) who will really lodge themselves in your heart; I couldn’t stop talking about them not just while I was reading this book, but long after I’d finished.

And don’t let the boxing element dissuade you. I won’t deny that there are fight scenes, training scenes and betting scenes – and as a kickboxer admittedly I had some understanding of and interest in it on a technical level. But, judging by the fact that the friend who gave me this book isn’t a boxing fan (as far as I’m aware), this certainly isn’t a pre-requisite to enjoy this book. I just hope it takes you in as much as it did me.

Eleanor & Park

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Set in the 80s over the course of one school year, this is the story of an unlikely romance between two 16-year-olds; the strangely-dressed ‘misfit’ new girl and the quiet comic book fan. But it’s so much more than that.

I could heap superlative after superlative on this book. It’s line after line of jawdropping, suckerpunch-to-the-heart, wonderfulness. I could quote it, but you deserve to discover it yourself. But I will say that in particular, I love Rowell’s dialogue (not just in this, but all her books). If I could afford it, I’d give a copy to every guest at my wedding. I’m aware that I’m properly fan-girling out here, but seriously. Oh just go and read it, you’ll see.

weareallcompletelybesideourselves

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
It’s really hard to recommend this book, because you can’t really say what it’s about without spoiling it. To be honest, the best way to enjoy it is to avoid reading anything about it first. So all I’ll say is that all the hype is valid. And that it’s particularly recommended if you like character-led books, and/or have an interest in psychology.

The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Socially awkward Don Tillman has to be one of the most endearing literary characters of recent years. The story revolves around the genetic professor’s search for a wife through ‘The Marriage Project’ – a long questionnaire designed to lead him to his perfect wife. Except completely-imperfect-on-paper Rosie arrives, and turns everything on its head.

But the book is as much about Don as a person as the ‘love story’; the story is told from his perspective, and I loved getting to know his routine and seeing the world through his eyes.

It’s also a genuinely funny book – I tend to just chortle inwardly when I’m ready, but was laughing out loud at some points when reading this.

Perfect if you fancy a lighthearted read that’s a little bit different (and if you really like it, there’s sequel too – The Rosie Effect – which I’m yet to read, but assured is equally as good).

The Circle
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Circle isn’t a book to take on a sightseeing holiday – not if you actually want to see any sights, anyway. This addictive book focuses on Mae, a new recruit at the eponymous organisation which is something of an amalgamation of Facebook, Google, Amazon, Paypal, and probably some others I’ve forgotten. It shows her descent into the technological world as The Circle becomes more and more present in her – and seemingly, everyone’s – lives.

Although towards the end there were some bits that felt ever-so-slightly over the top and one metaphor I really didn’t like, overall I was hooked by Eggers’ scary, futuristic world and how, even more scarily, it didn’t actually seem too futuristic at all.

Now I’ve told you my picks, tell me yours – what should I make sure is in the luggage next time I go away?

Where to stay Wednesday: Village House, Santubong

dsc_6365From sweaty sightseeing in Singapore to monkeys stealing our dinner post-trekking in Bako National Park, Borneo (more on that later): after a fantastic, but hectic, first week in Asia, we decided a change in pace was in order.

Dominated by the eponymous mountain, the Santubong peninsula is less than an hour from Kuching – the capital of Sarawak, Borneo – by mini bus. But it feels a world away. As we drove, concrete shops and mid-rises gave way to jungle and stilt-houses. The only traffic we encountered was caused by a seemingly constant stream of guests in beautiful outfits going to a wedding, which even mid-morning appeared to already be in full-swing. (Does anyone know the customs of traditional Malay/Borneo weddings? I’d love to read about them). Kuching isn’t particularly fast-paced, especially compared to a lot of Asian cities (or cities in general), but after spending a few days there you really appreciate how peaceful this surrounding countryside is.
998375_10100216883033697_1492269931_n

 

998264_10100215672554507_6702071_n

Tucked away down a gravel track, the idyllic Village House is the perfect place to stay in the area. We felt at home from the minute we walked into the frangipani-lined courtyard and were handed our ‘Welcome’ iced teas.

Comprising of just 14 bedrooms, this u-shaped hotel is built in traditional stilt-house style around a stunning pool/courtyard area. Underneath the bedrooms you’ll find the small restaurant, and seating and loungers for the pool. There’s also a bar, fancier upstairs ‘dining room’ type area (featuring a stunning wooden-carved table) and a living room full of books, television and dvds and – most importantly – board games. All of the rooms are decorated in traditional Sarawak style, with local craft pieces dotted throughout.

943460_10100215621541737_2076966683_n

We stayed in a Village Double, the standard private room, which are priced from 250 ringitt (about £50) a night (twins cost the same). Although a bit on the small side, we found it perfectly suited our needs: traditional Malay sarongs provided, enough space to dump our rucksacks, a decently-sized, modern bathroom and – most importantly – a four poster bed. To be honest, we spent most of our time relaxing by the pool anyway.

However if you want something a bit more luxurious or somewhere a bit more private to relax, the two Rajah Rooms have a sitting area, private veranda and mod cons like a television and Nespresso coffee machine. These start from 460 Ringitt a night (about £90).

At the other end of the spectrum, those just wanting a bed can book into the plainer dorm-style rooms, which sleep up to six people in bunkbeds. A night here costs 93 ringitt (just under £20).

7566937_J

Arguably the real stand-out of this hotel is the staff and service. Not only helpful – they’re full of recommendations and there’s a number of trips they can help you to plan such as to the nearby Cultural Village and firefly cruises – they’re also very friendly, stopping to chat and ask about your day. Just little touches, such as bringing your drink to you at the pool, really makes this place feel luxurious. Admittedly so far this is all in a good day’s work – especially by Asian hospitality standards (which are generally amazing). But they really went above and beyond for us: one of the girls stayed late to print our plane boarding passes. Another came in extra-early on our last day to unlock and make sure we got our taxi to the airport, even providing us with sandwiches to take with as we were missing out on breakfast.

Talking of food, if there’s one downside to the Village House, it’s that the eating here is little costly (by Sarawak standards). Also, if you want dinner then you have to make your mind up about it quite early: you have to pre-order by mid-afternoon. Understandable considering the size of the hotel, but perhaps not ideal for the more fleet of foot. You could probably organise to eat elsewhere – I’ve read good things about some seafood restaurants in a nearby village – but you’d have to plan that too unless you had your own car. However everything we ate here was pretty tasty so, so long as you accept that you’re paying the Sarawak version of hotel prices, we didn’t find being confined to the hotel for mealtimes too much of a problem. And breakfast is included in the cost of your stay, so that’s one meal you don’t have to worry about budgeting for.

983609_10100215673861887_607981406_n 996169_10100215673846917_1164412719_n

If you can bear to drag yourself away from the beautiful hotel, the surrounding area is worth exploring. Although a bit too rocky for sunbathing, the quiet beach – just down a sandy path – is the ideal location to watch the sun set. We also enjoyed walking into Santubong Village itself: an older lady sitting outside a shop, chopping coconuts ready for the next day. Roadside food stalls. Families going for a spin round the roads on their mopeds. John got chatting (sort of) to football-playing children, bonding over Manchester City. Later on, the call to prayer from the local mosque echoed through the village.

Stunning, entrancing, relaxing, we felt utterly spoilt for the entirety of our two nights here. Our only regret is that we didn’t stay longer.

The important details
Website: http://www.villagehouse.com.my/villagehouse/
Pricing: Range from about £20 p/night for a dorm bed to around £90 for the Rajah Rooms. Standard doubles/twins are around £45/£50. Price includes breakfast.
Location: Near Santubong Village, 20 miles from Kuching.
Any other extras?: Welcome drinks. Board games, dvds and books can be borrowed.
Recommended?: Absolutely. This was by far and away our favourite hotel of the trip.
Any reason not to?: If you like to be able to get around easily without a car then you could feel a little claustrophobic – you’ll be relying on wheeled vehicles to get most places from here. Not recommended if you don’t like to ‘stop’; this is strictly a ‘getting away from it all’ kind of hotel. Though if anywhere can convince you to take an unplanned break, it’s here.
983589_10100215673637337_1903169526_n