A Travel & Lifestyle Blog

The Mash Inn - Chiltern Hills


Good morning & Merry Christmas!
Our culinary exploration of the Chiltern Hills continues. And thanks to the three boys who own the Mash Inn, the area now often features in food magazines and is attracting more and more buzz.  
We had been to the Mash Inn on a warm, summer, Sunday afternoon, in search of a roast. They were closed. But we did get to see the garden with uninterrupted views over the Chiltern Hills and that massive iron fire pit, which must look gorgeous, when lit, under the summer evening sky.
Fast-forward four months and we are in December, with a  weekday reservation for dinner at the Mash Inn. It’s dark and wet and cold outside, but we’ve got a reservation - finally -  so let’s do this!

You know I’m going to say it was worth it. It was. Let me tell you why.
The guys that own the place are committed.
Committed enough to only open from Wednesday to Saturday, because they want everyone who works there to be happy and offer top notch service. Surely that’s not what gives restaurants Michelin stars? Yes it is. And it’s what makes for friendly and spot on service that made us feel relaxed and looked after, even on a cold and miserable December night.  

After our aperitivo by the fire we were shown to the ...kitchen! And we started chatting.
The kitchen is an extension of the dinning room. There are no walls, it's all open for you to wander in and see what's cooking. There is no stove either, but there are two live fire pits, already hot and ready to cook tonight’s meals. Everything happens here, Jon, the chef, greeted us and so did the rest of the staff. They are all down to earth. They are nice.
The dining area is simply decorated but the view at daytime out of the windows must be amazing. Little bonus -  the fire pit outside is lit. We can spot the flames dancing in the cold through the windows. We promise to check it out before we go.


Back to why else the place was worth it.
The food.
It’s fresh. And local. And interesting. And cooked on live fire. Francis Malmann take notice, please!
Everything is grilled, barbecued or poached over the wood fire - taste buds rejoice!

Are you one of those people who get excited at the prospect of bread & butter? Well, first of all, good for you! So are we! We always get excited with bread and butter, somehow it sets the tone for the meal. Well, the butter was smooth and creamy and the bread was a smoked garlic muffin, as a matter of fact. Spectacular smokey garlic flavour, not too strong but punchy enough, sourced by the nearby fields, fresh and then preserved in salt.  

Then the starters: poached oysters for me, chicken liver parfait for my husband; both deliciously fresh. I'm happy I tried the oysters, great idea poaching them in their own liquid over a live fire - I just think I prefer the crispiness of the cold, salty liquid they come in.
For our main, we both went for the lamb, roasted perfectly over the wood fire.
By "perfectly" I mean that it was seared nicely on the outside and although it still had that pinky colour inside, it was slightly warm and tender, the kind that makes you smile after one bite. 
That dish was like the little shop of curiosities, full of surprising little accompaniments. Take the pickled fresh walnuts, amongst other things. Jon, the Chef, has a real eye for playing around with local veg that he pickles and preserves everything he can get his hands on - his pickling jars are all dotted around the pub. This means that your food will not be served with he same staff over and over.



Trivial question: what's with the pineapple?
Nick, one of the three owners, told us that his family were grocers, hence the pineapple reminded him of their hard work. This place is run by real people. 

Now let's go see the fire pit outside, under the December starry sky.

Luxe Red

 
The Pub Guide: George & Charlie Dailey, a Father-Daughter Collaboration - "Great Pubs of London"

Geneva in Two Days - Vielle Ville, Fondue and Burgers

 

Early morning flight from London, it's all worth it just to catch the sun rising over the Alps!

Attention, sil vous plais! This post contains cheesy pictures of fondue and stringy shots of melted gruyer!

Geneva is usually a gateway to the Alps and rightly so - the airport has excellent train connections to all of Switzerland, France and Germany. But if you make time for Geneva itself, you won't be disappointed. That's what we did, we caught a Swiss Air flight to Athens and stopped over for two nights.
 
Two days are plenty: one to see the Vielle Ville and Plainpalais and the second to tour around the UN and WTO Headquarters, finishing off in the colourful Carouge, an Italianised suburb.
Plenty of cheese involved around every step!
 


We stayed in Hotel N'vY, an excellent boutique hotel, two blocks away from Lac Leman and closer to Nation, where the UN, Jardin Boanique and the WTO sites are located.
It is filled with art pieces and ladies who lunch; the bar gets quite busy in the evenings too.
 
However, what we also soon realised is that this is not the reputable part of town, if you catch my drift. Never thought I'd say that about any neighbourhood around Geneva, especially so close to the lake, but here we are. Paquis is where the immigrant community has settled and as a result, there are loads of Indian, Turkish and Chinese restaurants, a good compromise.
On the upside, the rooms in N'vY are gorgeous, very modern, fresh and spacious, with massive comfy beds. All of your USB-wiring has been taken care of, so that we even plugged in our Chromecast to watch movies from our Netflix account.
 
And last but not least: our room came with free transport cards for the whole of our stay so that we didn't spend a penny on taxis. Bearing in my mind that my husband "doesn't do public transport" as he puts it, imagine how good the tram and bus system is!

http://bit.ly/2jblo5L

http://bit.ly/2jblo5L


Our first attempt for a good fondue was in les Armures, in the the old town.
After exploring the old town, we needed a good, traditional setting to chill at and enjoy the very reason we were in town for: fondue! This place was perfect, it had a medieval cellar feeling.

The fondue payssaine, included lardons and mushrooms in the pot, for flavour.
One pot will do nicely for two people, provided you get one more dish, like traditional sausage with Rosti, for example. We actually left very content and not full at all. Maybe the bottle of Pinot Noir helped, or the fact that we had walked up and down the entire old town beforehand.
When tackling fondue, forget about the water, you need black tea, red wine or kirsch to get things going, otherwise you'll end up with a heavy, heavy stomach.
 
Do you know your fondue etiquette?
- No double-dipping!
- No liking your fork!
- Clean the sides of your fondue pot first!
- Dip your bread in the pot and tap to get rid of excess cheese. Nothing worse than a fondue hogger!
 
A note on service around restaurants...be patient.
They are quick with your order but the rest of the time you might feel ignored. It's part of the setup, restaurants don't seem to have an army of waiters like in UK for example, but that's fine, eating all around Europe is a relaxed and pleasurable affair, not a business deal. And make an effort with your French, they'll be as helpful as possible after that!
 
The Old town is gorgeous, although very quiet! Bus No36 does a round-trip from the main shopping area all around the old town, so if you don't like slopes use that instead.

A very unexpected setting - the Hamburger Foundation

We took a break from the fondue and popped into a retro place for burgers, around Paquis.
The Hamburger Foundation offers three things: burgers, cheeseburgers and loaded burgers, oh there is a veggie burger too. Everything comes with salad and fries and trust me when I say that you'll be happy to have some salad at this stage!
This is a gorgeous little retro dinner-turn-east-London-cool spot!  
  
Colourful Carouso

On Sunday afternoon, we headed to Carouge, a village straight out of the Nutcracker.
This is a colourful, vibrant little quarter, built by the Dukes of Savoy to rival Geneva. It has an Italian feel, it's packed with little cafes and so many patisseries! Everywhere you look there are sweets, tarts, pastries, it's chocolate and chantilly galore! 

Our second attempt at fondue at Cave Valaisanne et Chalet Suisse



 
On Sunday night we went for yet another fondue. Unfortunately some of the restaurants were closed, so bear that in mind. One of the most popular fondue places, is this little spot called Gruyerien, with a red cow outside, in Village Suisse, but being Sunday, it was closed too.
 
We went to Cave Valaisanne et Chalet Suisse instead; it looks like a Suisse chalet with wooden panelling and red checked tablecloths. It's more commercial than the Gruyerien, but we heard quite a few locals around us, so that encouraged us to stay.
We had fondue fines herbes this time around, a simple fondue spiced up with very light and aromatic herbs. We had cold meats alongside our cheesy adventure, in an attempt to cut back on bread.
It worked!
 
Outdoors Chess in Pac des Bastion, on a chilly Sunday December afternoon   
© Life Love London

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