Norms La Cienega, California, USA

I’m currently over in the States visiting Lusa and having a fabulous time. As we were being arty today and going to the Museum of Modern Art to see Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., we were in West Hollywood at lunch time. Lusa pleaded with me to go to Le Pain Quotidien, a chic French restaurant that boasts a largely organic menu and dishes such as Roasted Pear and Spinach Salad and Quinoa Taboulé but I insisted she took me to a diner so I could eat like an American. So Norms it was – a diner that has been around since 1949 and was only a short walk away.

Opening the door we walked into the opening scenes of Pulp Fiction (not really as it was filmed in Panns but we’re going there for breakfast one morning soon). The diner was exactly as you would expect with people sitting at the counter and others in booths. The menu was large, laminated and had lots of photographs. There were also daily specials and Thursday’s was ‘Pick a Pair’, which I ended up going for. Soup, salad, potatoes (mash/fries/baked) and 2 items from the list – steak, fish, shrimps or chicken. The soup was Gumbo (okra, celery, peppers, onions, chicken, sausage and rice) and I had 6 fried shrimps and hand battered fried haddock strips along with it as well as the salad and fries. Yes I was eating like an American, an extremely overweight one with eyes bigger than their belly. IMAG7710Lusa decided on a Tuna melt sandwich with fries that looked tiny in comparison to my edible extravaganza.

My soup was nice and spicy and tasted like one I would make from Sunday leftovers (I mean that in a good way). IMAG7709The salad was just like you get at home (a bit boring) and the deep fried fishes were very tasty if a bit greasy. Try as I did, I couldn’t finish them all – even with Lusa helping me. Lusa left some of her sandwich too and told me later she had food regret as she threw back a Tumms. IMAG7713

Our (very beige) American dining experience came to $22.70 (£16.71) plus tip. The portion size also meant I did not need to eat for another 24 hours, which made it even more of a bargain.


Banner’s House, Markinch, Fife

Looking for a Sunday lunch OH and I decided to visit Banner’s House in Markinch, Fife today (just across from the train station).

I phoned to book just in case it was full as we intended to walk there and back but they were happy to accommodate us and just wanted a rough time for us to appear by. When we arrived we were given a lovely little booth within the dinning room and handed a Sunday special menu, the general menu, which had all the menus and the drinks one. I have to say the breakfast menu looked good as did the Afternoon Tea one. However, we were there for lunch so I had to focus.

First off the drinks menu. I ordered a bottle of house white – having noticed the house wine was £17.50 and OH ordered a bottle of German beer because I had just made him walk for 45 minutes for his lunch. However, when I said house wine the waitress thought for a bit and asked if I liked Sauvignon Blanc. I did. She said she could recommend it. I nodded happily. Later when the wine arrived I checked the wine list and it was on there but the price was £22.50. Don’t get me wrong. I loved the wine and it was probably loads better than the house but I did ask for the house. Anyway. We then ordered.

None of the starters really jumped out – although I did fancy the fish broth but the price made me think it would be too filling as a starter. Their soup of the day was red pepper and carrot and the rest of the starters weren’t really my thing or the kind of dish you could share so I went straight to the mains.

I said, before OH got the chance, that I was having the Seared Sea Bass, orange braised IMAG7550fennel – mussel, coconut, tomato and new potato chowder. He was immediately annoyed because he said that was what he was going to have it. (We’re not allowed to order the same thing in case one of us hate’s our choice and wants to swap). I prompted him to go for the brisket as it sounded so good with it’s rich gravy, onion mash and buttered kale. However, he surprised me and went for the Indian inspired Lamb red pepper curry with coconut rice and flatbread (I hope I’ve got that right because I didn’t pay too much attention to the specials menu after deciding on the fish).

Our dishes arrived and both looked fantastic so 10/10 for display.  My fish dish tasted lovely. The coconut wasn’t overpowering and neither was the orange in the braised fennel but they still  complimented each other perfectly. The mussels were large and plump and all of them passed muster (how many times do you get a disappointing mussel in a dish??) The sea bass skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked but overall the dish hit the spot. I cleared the plate and even tried to wipe the salt from the sides of the cast iron pan (1. It wasn’t salt it was a pattern and 2. The pan wasn’t cast iron.) IMAG7549One thing I also noticed was that when I dropped my knife into the dish it didn’t go under the chowder so the cutlery to dish ratio was perfect!!!! Extra points.

OH’s lamb curry was spicy and creamy, just as suggested on the menu but what wasn’t mentioned was the heat that it would induce. I tried the sauce and had to take a couple of minutes before I could speak. However, the taste made me want more so I tried it again and loved it. Thick, creamy and with a punch that takes your breath away, the curry was a meal not for the faint-hearted. OH dabbed his forehead with his napkin as he devoured it.

As per my usual, I decided against a dessert and finished the wine whilst OH chose Marmalade Caramel Crepes with Chocolate Ice Cream. Again the dish looked good when IMAG7554it arrived. I hate orange and chocolate so didn’t give it a go (I must have had a bad experience with a Chocolate Orange one Christmas) but OH assures me it was “a good balance between sweet and tang” and polished it off.

There was lots of lovely decor bits in and around the room. Lots of doors, bare lamp bulbs and odd chairs. There may have been a small amount of confusion around the (clean and tidy) toilets as a bloke walked in when I was washing my hands. The doors had old fashioned adverts on them instead of the norm wording for ladies and gents on them but then I managed to find the right one! Some people shouldn’t be allowed out alone ;p

However, the bit of décor that did make me smile was this sign I was totally unaware of until we left . And there was me thinking he had just been being nice…IMAG7555

I have  to admit I did feel the bill was a bit steep compared  to other meals we have had recently at £58 for 2 mains, a dessert, a bottle of wine and a pint of lager but it was a great atmosphere, the service was impeccable (the Hungarian waitress was lovely)  and the food was good so I am not complaining.