The Mallorcan covid holiday experience – part 2

Port Andratx offered everything I could want and more. Stunning views were supplied everywhere you looked, and the endless restaurants did not stop providing gorgeous food and drink.

The location proved to be perfect. At the top of the hill, I was treated to 180 degrees of uninterrupted views of the sea and beautiful mountainous terrain. This was perfect for a Covid holiday as it meant you could enjoy the surroundings and Mallorcan lifestyle away from the crowds. Many more amazing benefits of the location came from the amazing spots to view the sunset just a short walk down the other side of the hill. We spent many cheap evenings lazing down the side of the hill in an orange hue with a bottle of wine and a disposable barbeque watching the sun disappear behind the sea. I also enjoyed exploring the hills during the day and we found many amazing viewpoints and spots that felt a million miles away from civilisation.

Amongst all the incredible restaurants, my favourite was one that we visited on my third day in Mallorca. It’s called Verico. Located at the bottom of the hill with beautiful views of the Port, they offered a dining experience that was first class. Attentive waiters, delicious food and drinks to die for, the Italian restaurant had offered the perfect start to our holiday. I would recommend it to anyone who visited the Port, and, although it’s a big treat, it’s definitely worth it!

The coastal road from Port Andratx to Soller is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Mallorca and it didn’t disappoint. The bendy roads wrapped their way around the side of the mountain, traversing through beautifully scenic villages such as Valldemossa and Banyalbufar. The scenery almost overwhelmed me at parts as my viewpoint was contrasted between the extremities of a severe drop into the ocean and the dominating mountain on the other side. When we reached Soller we took the tram down to the port, which was beautiful. Quite different to that of Andratx, the port was wide, with beaches and lots of swimmers. It was distinctly less busy which offered a welcome change from the bustling life of Port Andratx.

Everyone in Mallorca was wearing masks and there was talk of a fine if you were caught not wearing one. It was hot, sweaty, extremely uncomfortable but very necessary in order to keep yourselves and others healthy. The news of the two-week quarantine came out on the 25th July and it hit hard. I wasn’t due to come home until the 5th August, so I was faced with the fact that I was going to be stuck inside for two weeks when I got home. This was the reality of a covid holiday. But, overall, although it wasn’t quite as glamorous as normal, it was an amazing experience, and we were still able to do everything we wanted. I wouldn’t have changed any of it!

Sober for October; the story so far

10 days in and it’s fair to say that my sober October has already come with its ups and downs. The support I’ve received from my friends and family is undeniably the thing that has kept me going and my motivation up. None of my friends have attempted to peer pressure me into drinking (not that I would budge) and my mum is singing my praises at home!

The combination of the local lockdown, closed nightclubs and an increased workload has also worked in my favour. My motivation has been so happy to see the back of binge drinking, getting home in the early hours of the morning and writing off whole days at a time! I’ve been able to get up early and straight to work on most days. The third-year workload, Quench magazine, my blog and new food Instagram account has demanded all my head space, so, the no drinking couldn’t have come at a better time. My life has been absolutely filled with reading and writing!

Another interesting turn of events which has added to my sober October is a round of antibiotics! For the first time in my life I have been forced into a 9-day dry spell due to medication and it couldn’t have coincided with a better month. It has only added to the motivation and reasons to stay sober, so I’m extremely grateful for my ailments!  

Bring on the next 20 days!

The Mallorcan Covid holiday experience – Part 1

After endless months of being trapped inside and tied to my hometown, I was eager to get back to travelling the world. Like many others, my plans to travel far had been shot down. I had set my sights on South East Asia and Sri Lanka, but this trip would have to be postponed. However, despite the restrictions on travel, I was lucky enough to be able to visit my boyfriend at his home in the Mallorcan port of Port Andratx. I was able to say hello to sun and sea along with a firm goodbye to the British rain and fields!

As I entered the airport through their temperature measuring facility, I was worried that I would be turned away. I didn’t possess any symptoms, but I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by this dystopian procedure. However, I sailed through and made my way up towards security. The airport was nearly empty due to the number of flights having been immensely cut down and I got through security in a record time. Off – duty was closed along with any pub or restaurant which gave off an eerie vibe as it felt like I was wondering the corridors of an abandoned, shut up building. As this was early July, mask wearing had not yet been made mandatory in British shops, so this was the first time I had to wear one for a long period of time and it was definitely taking some getting used to.

The plane itself was a lot fuller than I expected. Everyone was clearly eager to get back to their holiday making and the Spanish regions were offering the best deal. There had been no lockdown restrictions put in place (yet) so the British public were clearly ready to get their warm weather fix.

As I stepped off the plane in Mallorca that evening I was hit by a wall of heat. It was so refreshing to finally be able to feel proper sun once more. I had landed at around 8pm local time which was perfect to watch the sunset as we drove from Palma airport to Port Andratx. We went straight out for a quick dinner as soon as we got there, and I had my first taste of the Mallorcan Covid experience. Masks were required to be worn as you walked around the town, which, coming from Britain, was an alien experience for me. All restaurant staff had to wear masks and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them. It was an average of 30 degrees Celsius in the daytime and they were constantly moving around on their feet so it must have been a real struggle for them.

Port Andratx itself blew me away. Located on the coastal stretch of a sprawling mountainous region, the port sits in between two large, green hills speckled with villas and apartments. Restaurants line the promenade, allowing a gorgeous view of the scintillating ocean as you tuck into your lunch. I was so excited for the weeks to follow! Sun, sea and the perfect company. What more could you want?

Review: wahaca

Written by Indigo Jones, Hannah Penwright and Sasha Nugara for Quench magazine

Last week our section editors were offered the chance to review Wahaca Cardiff, a Mexican chain which can be found across the UK. The restaurant prides itself on sustainability, and its new menu explains how it’s the most sustainable yet. After having been to the restaurant our editors decided to write a collaborative review to discuss the highs and lows of the visit, whilst showcasing the wonderful food they were able to indulge on.

Indigo Jones

When I opened our mailbox and noticed an email from Wahaca, I was jumping for joy! I had never been to the restaurant before and have been itching to go due to my fascination and devotion to Mexican food. This love for the cuisine stemmed long before my trip to Mexico in 2017, where I experienced authentic food full of colour and flavours. Having travelled there myself, I had extremely high expectations for our meal at Wahaca.

I ordered the mushroom and feta tacos, chargrilled steak and cheese tacos and the Devon crab tostada. I decided on these options as I wanted to try the variety of things that Wahaca had to offer. All three dishes were full of flavour and were very appealing to the eye. My favourite out of the three had to be the Devon crab tostada as combination of the crab and pink pickled onions tasted so fresh and worked almost like a palette cleanser to the other dishes. My only complaint is that I would have loved a bit of a kick to the plates, having developed quite a tolerance for spicy food, I felt like that’s what these dishes were missing.  I would have asked one of the wait staff for some hot sauce to add to my food, but similar to Mexico unfortunately the service was slow, and I was unable to ask.

The highlight of the night had to be the £5 margaritas which they offered the week we attended to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. We ordered a variety of passion fruit and hibiscus flavoured margaritas, and these fruity drinks made the perfect accompaniment to our meals. I personally highly recommend going to Wahaca for both food and cocktails, and I would definitely attend again but perhaps next time I’ll ask for some hot sauce when I order!

Hannah Penwright

When limited to the vegetarian options, I love it when a restaurant serves tapas-style small plates as it means there’s likely to be a lot more choice- and Wahaca did not disappoint. My favourite out of the three small plates I chose was the mushroom and feta tacos; they were nothing short of incredible. The star of the tacos was definitely the mushrooms, as they were meaty (in a good way for a vegetarian), with a beautiful flavour. The smokiness of the ancho paired with the tangy feta was heavenly. The only disappointment was that there were only two- I could have happily eaten my weight in them.

Hannah’s three cheese quesadillas and cauliflower bites

The only dish out of the three I wouldn’t pick again was the black bean and three cheese quesadillas. For a small plate, I found them almost too filling that I struggled to finish the rest of my food. I’d also have liked some more flavour from the filling, as even with three types of cheese I found it quite bland. Regardless, the meal ended on a high note, as the last dish to arrive were the crispy cauliflower bites. Think perfectly crisp, well-seasoned batter, and a punchy aioli for an added kick to dip in. The cauliflower flavour wasn’t overpowering (which often seems the case with dishes like this), but it was just enough that the flavour still shone. It’s a shame these aren’t vegan so that more people can try them, as they’re too good not to order.

Often, being vegetarian in a restaurant means you have only a couple of options to pick from, which means eating there often can get a bit dull. However, there’s so many meat-free options at Wahaca that I don’t think I’ll ever get bored about eating here. I’ll definitely be returning to try more of the dishes!

Sasha Nugara

Today’s Covid climate has forced many restaurants to change their entire eating out experience in order to accommodate strict health and safety regulations. It is safe to say that Wahaca is no exception. Drip fed into the restaurant, we were given a comprehensive run down of the companies new policies and all the actions they were taking in order to ensure a safe experience. A one-way system had been formed around the restaurant and sheets of Perspex fixed onto the tables. If we could be confident about one thing, it was that they cared about our wellbeing.

The menu itself offered a dazzling selection of Mexican bites and the small plates option meant that I was able to sample as much as I could. I ordered the pork pibil tacos, the grilled chicken club quesadillas and the new cheese and chilli croquetas. The highlight of the meal was definitely the pork tacos due to the combination of succulent meat, tangy pickled onion and soft taco shell. The portion size was generous for a small plate – which I appreciated as I could eat them all day! The croquetas were perfectly round and perfectly cheesy but I would warn you to proceed with caution! Fortunately, I’m a huge spice fan and I absolutely loved the chilli wave, it was a perfect contrast to the mild quesadillas. They came with a tomatillo apple salsa which complimented the chilli perfectly and offered a refreshing after taste. Overall, the food did not disappoint, and I would recommend all that I ordered!

There’s nothing better than being able to enjoy your food with the comfortable knowledge that the journey it took to your plate was sustainable and had little effect on the environment. Wahaca have made moves to ensure their fish and meat come from trustworthy sources, making the special effort to become one of the first restaurants in the UK pass an audit by the Marine Stewardship Council and stock their approved fish. Equally, Wahaca was the first restaurant to become carbon neutral and they use renewable energy throughout their restaurants. They also help to fund the Improved Mexican Cookstove project which donates efficient cookstoves to low income households in Mexico, improving their livelihood and reducing fuel use as much as 58%. Its things like this which can help improve the eating out experience by tenfold as you guiltlessly support a company that are doing so much to give back. I will definitely be returning to Wahaca.

The Coconut tree

Originally written for Quench student mag

As someone who has grown up immersed in Sri Lankan food and culture due to my father’s heritage, the opening of The Coconut Tree in Cardiff was an exciting moment for me. When I walked into the restaurant for the first time, I remember being instantly hit with a cultural punch reminiscent of those lazy days spent in Sri Lanka. The menu offered everything I could have asked for in order to acknowledge a true Sri Lankan foodie experience; parippu, kotthu, slow cooked tuna in goraka spices, coconut sambol and of course… hoppers. I enjoy making my own egg hoppers at home but it is a laborious task and will often result in me spending the whole morning slaving over the hob for my family, so, ordering them from a restaurant is a nice change! At Quench we wanted to get in touch with The Coconut Tree, delve into the background of their restaurant and find out about the inspiration behind their Sri Lankan theme. We were also interested to learn how they had coped with lockdown and what effects COVID 19 could have on their future.

 I was put into contact with the brand director Anna Garrod who was able to shed some light on The Coconut Tree’s origin story and the five young Sri Lankans who wanted to ‘bring Sri Lankan streetfood to the masses.’ The beginning of their journey was accompanied by calls to Ceylon to attain secret recipes from their mums and handmade furniture from their dads. This authenticity is so prevalent in their restaurants and creates such a refreshing experience. They made sure that the menu offered variety with the abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as affordability with the pricing starting at £2.50. This way they have been able to fulfil their mission of ‘true Sri Lankan hospitality that ‘Everyone is welcome to the Table.’ ’ Anna says that Sri Lankans were born making food for an occasion, and, if my family are anything to go by, this is definitely true!

The Coconut Tree own six different branches across the UK, but they don’t see themselves as a chain. They are a group of owners who work in the business every day and night, from cooking to finance, to operations. After their initial opening in Cheltenham, they were picked up by the Guardian as one of the best ‘cheap eats in the South West’ and their business exploded from there. Since then they’ve opened branches in Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford and Bournemouth. Cardiff attracted them as the ‘lifestyle capital of Wales’ and the Welsh’s friendliness and love of eating out! Anna commented on the fact that both Lonely Planet and The Sunday Times listed Sri Lanka as the No1 ‘Best place to visit’ and the benefits it subsequently had on The Coconut Tree’s success and profile. The Coconut Tree are going to be a part of the Castle Eats project at Cardiff Castle, so Cardiffians will be able to sit outside the castle and enjoy a takeaway from TCT al fresco! TCT is located on Mill Lane, next to Côte Brasserie and opposite John Lewis. This is a perfect foodie location, as it is surrounded by some of Cardiff’s finest restaurants and TCT acts as a unique addition to this collection. It stands out with its bold, dark branding and its outdoor seating and bar creates a welcoming vibe, encouraging passers-by to pop in for a legendary cocotail!

An image provided by TCT of their delicious food

On the topic of lockdown and COVID19, the lack of business proved to be a struggle for all small to medium boutiques. TCT’s Cardiff location had only been open for six months, so for them to have come through the worst of lockdown and survived it is a big success for them! Social media acted as a positive method to keep in touch with their costumer base and give updates towards reopening. They started doing takeaways on Fridays and Saturdays throughout lockdown, but have now extended to every night thanks to the extreme popularity they received. They’ve recently opened their outdoor space with plans to start trading inside as well, so it’s onwards and upwards for TCT! They are participating in the August Eat Out to Help Out offer Monday – Wednesday, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get down there and try out their amazing food!

I asked TCT what they would recommend to a first time coconuter and they responded with two new hybrid dishes that they’ve recently added to their menu:

  • Devilled Pork & Pineapple: Mixing two famous Sri Lankan dishes, this spicy, sweet, tangy and sour dish is a vibrant mix of juicy belly pork, red chilli, onion and banana peppers with garlic, spring onion and seasoning. The pork is cooked in the spices, before the veg is finished on a hot plate with the pineapple ‘Achcharu Style’. 
  • Chicken Curried Kotthu: Two of The Coconut Tree’s best-loved and best-selling dishes come together for the first time; Vegetable Kotthu (finely chopped roti cooked with egg and vegetables, cooked on a searing hot plate), topped with juicy chicken off-the-bone in a rich curry sauce made with fennel, cardamom, cloves, cumin, house curry powder, onion and cinnamon. 

They sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them! Everyone should get down to The Coconut Tree to sample their amazing food and cocotails!

Post lockdown health kick

Written for Quench student mag

For me, lockdown will always signify an unprecedented amount of binge snacking and stress eating. Those early, uncertain days were passed with films and chocolate as I lost all motivation and any concept of the word ‘health’. Now that lockdown is lifting and uni is looming, I am all too aware of the consequences my mental and physical health has faced and I’m ready to kickstart a new and healthy beginning!

“Meat, carbs and snacking are my weaknesses”

One of the methods I find best for dieting is not to remove unhealthy food from my diet but to try and replace them with a healthy option. Going cold turkey from your favourite meals and snacks can be extremely challenging, so, I find closely substituting them a lot more realistic. Meat, carbs and snacking are my weaknesses so I have listed a few different methods I use to try and combat these addictions, starting with meat.

Fatty meat replacements

I absolutely love a juicy burger, but all that red meat can take its toll and I find a falafel burger a delicious and healthy compromise. You can buy them everywhere, but, if you have a blender, they are also ridiculously easy to make. 

Put in a blender; 400g can chickpeas – rinsed and drained, 1 small chopped, 1 chopped garlic clove, handful of flat-leaf parsley or curly parsley, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp ground coriander, ½ tsp harissa paste or chilli powder, 2 tbsp plain flour. Once well combined shape into four patties and simply fry in sunflower oil. To reduce the carbs, I like to serve with some homemade buckwheat flour and yogurt flat breads, but you can serve in a burger bun to channel a traditional burger! They go well with a tomato salsa or a beetroot tzatziki, which is a great way to pack in some more veg!

“Many people (including myself) are reluctant to give up meat completely”

Red meat is well known to negatively affect your diet and although meat free swaps can be successful, many people (including myself) are reluctant to give up meat completely. Swapping beef mince for healthier minces such as pork and turkey can make extremely successful bolognaises and burgers with a lot less calories and fat. This is a more simple and subtle swap than a meat free one and it’s extremely effective to help regain any loss you’ve made to your physical and mental health from a lockdown binge.

Carb reduction

My diet is extremely carb based and I’m forever looking for ways to reduce my pasta, rice and potato consumption. Replacing some of these with grains such as cuscous, bulgar or quinoa can help fill you up whilst also adding some variety to your diet. Adding a small amount of olive oil, salt, pepper and some herbs to these grains creates a simple but effective dressing, turning it into a tasty, healthy and substantial side dish. Equally, you could use the grains instead of rice with a curry to partially reduce your carb intake.

Similar to swapping a beef burger for a falafel burger, I’ve enjoyed swapping a regular pizza for a cauliflower pizza. This not only reduces carb intake massively, but it also increases the amount of veg you can sneakily slip into your diet. Although it sounds complicated to make, this recipe is not too difficult to follow, as long as you have a blender and a clean tea towel.

Heat your oven to 200C and remove the leaves from one 750g cauliflower and trim the stalk end, then cut into chunks. Blitz half the cauliflower in your blender until finely chopped, like rice. Chuck this into a bowl and repeat with the other half of the cauliflower. Tip the cauliflower in a bowl, cover with cling film and microwave for 5-6 mins until softened. Tip onto a clean tea towel, leave to cool a little then scrunch up the tea towel and squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the cauliflower. Transfer this to a clean bowl and stir in 100g of ground almonds, 2 beaten eggs, 1 tbsp of oregano and plenty of seasoning. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and grease with oil. Mound the cauliflower mix into the centre of the tray, then use a spoon and your hands to spread out into a 30cm round. Make it a little thicker at the edges to create a crust. Bake for 15-18 mins until golden brown and starting to crisp a little at the edges. You can then top the pizza base as you would a regular pizza with a tomato sauce, cheese and any topping you fancy (a great opportunity to bump up your veg intake even further). Once topped, turn the oven up to 240C and put the pizza back into the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes and the cheese has melted to your liking. Then enjoy your pizza guilt free!!

Saying no to snacking!

“If a kale chip is too much for you, going for an oven baked crisp option is still making a positive healthy change!”

Snacking is probably my biggest downfall – especially when it comes to crisps and chocolate. If I end up with a big bag of crisps or a packet of M&Ms next to me, I really struggle to stop myself devouring the entire thing. When it comes to food like this, it’s difficult to replace it with something healthy that is equally as moreish and enjoyable. There are certain fruits that I find are a decent replacement and can do the job such as purple grapes and pomegranate seeds. Their size makes it easy to slowly pick at them as you watch tv and their sweet sharp flavour is reminiscent of sweets. Kale chips are easy to make and are very healthy, but they are extreme and don’t necessarily have the same effect as a regular crisp. If a kale chip is too much for you, going for an oven baked crisp option is still making a positive healthy change!