Thursday, 15 February 2018

St Valentine's Day restaurant review

Elliot's Restaurant & Winebar, Meeting House Lane, Lancaster - 14 Feb 2018

My wife suggested we try Elliot's on St Valentine's Day having been there a couple of times previously when the place was under different management. We booked a table for 7pm and arrived ten minutes early to find we had the place to ourselves. The friendly waitress gave us the menus and told us that they were doing complimentary drinks of either a glass of red or white wine or prosseco. All the tables were nicely laid out with a single rose in the middle and some heart-shaped decorations.

We thought about going straight for a main course and then having a dessert but saw that they were doing starters for two people to share, so chose one of those. The one we picked was bread with dips which included taramosalata which my wife didn't want as she is a vegetarian. But on the menu it stated that there was a vegan option so we asked the waitress what this consisted of. To our surprise we were told that this option wasn't available which seemed odd as we appeared to be the first customers of the evening.

After half an hour of nothing happening the waitress came over, put side plates down on the table and apologised for the delay but we had nothing to eat. Could we not have been given something to nibble on while we waited? If we'd wanted to sit and have a drink for 45 minutes we would have gone to the pub down the road. But no. No bread, no olives, not even a bowl of crisps.

When the starter finally arrived we were disappointed to see that the guacamole which had been on the menu (though not on their website menu) was missing though they had replaced the taramosalata with an aubergine dish. As both of us had had early lunches we were grateful to finally get some food to go along with our complimentary drinks.

For our main courses my wife ordered the veggie option, which was Imam Bayildi - a stuffed roasted aubergine, and I went for the sea bass with cous-cous. Unfortunately the aubergine was almost inedible and while my fish was nice, it came with risotto rice which was very stodgy. We complained about the aubergine and after much coming and going between our table and the kitchen, the chef finally came up with quails eggs on cous-cous with feta cheese and cherry tomatoes. Sounds nice but the cous-cous was as disappointing as the risotto.

So it was a bit of a disaster all round. We were asked if they could get us anything else, though it wasn't clear if desserts or another drink would be complimentary or not, so we decided to just get the bill and go home. They gave us 10% off, which was better than nothing, but really we should have had the price of one of the main courses deducted from the bill.

As far as the restaurant itself is concerned, the place was clean enough and the staff friendly but that didn't make up for what was a pretty awful meal. I used the facilities and found there was no soap in the gents but instead a bottle of hand sanitiser which is the sort of thing I associate more with hospitals than restaurants.

So if you are a vegetarian, or think you might fancy the veggie option, I would give Elliot's a miss. It would have been better if they hadn't had a veggie option* rather than one which the chef was apparently unwilling or unable to cook properly. The restaurant was about two-thirds full when we left and hopefully the other diners had better meals than we did. Maybe the chef specialises in cooking meat rather than vegetarian dishes but then the accompanying rice and cous-cous were not great either. To be honest we would have been better going to our local pub for pizza than visiting Elliot's.

As an end note it is worth mentioning that the restaurant does not have a very happy history. As my friend Paul said on Twitter last night, "It was great when it was a Thai resteraunt run by that nice lady who murdered her husband." 

* Correction - they had two vegetarian main courses on the menu.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Folk Gigs in North Lancs & South Cumbria 2018

For full listings, online bookings etc

Image Acoustic* -
Brewery Arts Centre -
The Platform -
Victoria Hall -

The Andy May Trio & Rosie Hood
Date: Sunday 11 February
Venue: Victoria Hall, Settle
Tickets: £10.50

An Evening with Phil Beer*
Date: Friday 23rd February 8pm
Venue: Ellel Village Hall, Galgate
Tickets £15

Blazin' Fiddles
Date: Thursday 1 March
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £17.50

Edgelarks: Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin*
Date: Friday 9th March 7:30pm
Venue: Ellel Village Hall, Galgate
Tickets £14

Lady Maisery
Date: Saturday 31 March 8pm
Venue: Village Hall, Staveley
Tickets: £12

Kris Drever
Date: Thursday 12 April
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £15

Michael Chapman
Date: Thursday 19 April
Venue: The Platform, Morecambe
Tickets: £14

Chris While & Julie Matthews*
Date: Thursday 3 May
Venue: Chaplaincy Centre, Lancaster University
Tickets: £15

Show of Hands with special guest Geoff Lakeman

Date: Friday 11 May
Venue: The Platform, Morecambe
Tickets: £22

For folk and Americana shows and mixes -

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Top Folk & Acoustic Albums of 2017

I've put together my list of favourite albums of the year. As ever, thanks go to the promoters and artists who have sent me cds and free downloads. Along with the albums listed below I should mention a couple of releases which were made up of just a few tracks - they might have been called EPs back in the days of vinyl - namely 'Five Songs' by Barbara Dickson and 'The Wren And The Salt Air' by Jenny Sturgeon.

2017 must be the first year in quite a long time that I didn't make it to any music festivals apart from the one here in Lancaster. I've only been to about a dozen gigs this year but most have been very enjoyable, the best being the Pitmen Poets, Breabach, John Doyle, Jamie Smith's Mabon, The Young 'Uns, Rory McLeod and Edgelarks. 

My favourite album and gig would probably go to The Young 'Uns as I was blown away by their harmony singing when they came to the Dukes Theatre here in Lancaster and their album "Strangers" is packed full of brilliant songs. 

Top UK Albums 

Ross Ainslie - Sanctuary
The Deadly Winters - Ravynstoun
Amy Duncan - Antidote
Robert Foster - Raven
Peter Knight's Gigspanner - The Wife of Urban Law
Rosie Hood - The Beautiful & The Actual
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys - Pretty Peggy
Geoff Lakeman - After All These Years
Madam Tsunami - Long Way From Home
Siobhan Miller - Strata
Moonlight Gazette - Moonlight Gazette
Damien O'Kane - Avenging & Bright
Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail
Old Blind Dogs - Room With A View
Skinner & T'witch - The Fool's Journey
Turnstone - Hollow Ground
The Young 'Uns - Strangers 

Top Albums from North America

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone 
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough - Mockingbird Soul
Stephen Fearing - Every Soul's a Sailor
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - Souvenir
Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy - The Miller Girl 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lancaster, UK

Friday, 27 October 2017

Off The Beaten Tracks radio show 27 October

I thought I'd record a show with songs written about refugees and immigrants and their journeys around the world. I found quite a few suitable ones just by UK artists, though there is a song by German group Fellerband, with my first choice being a very powerful song by The Young 'Uns titled 'Dark Water'. It was written about two young men who decided to swim across the sea to Greece as they didn't have the money to pay the people smugglers. There are a couple of songs about Calais where people used to gather in a camp called the Jungle though it has since been destroyed by the French authorities. But I'm sure people are still heading there to try and get across the Channel to England.

Darwin Song Project - Trust in the Rolling Ocean
Roving Crows - Refugee
Richard Thompson - Take Care the Road You Choose
Gilmore & Roberts - Warmonger
The Young 'Uns - Dark Water
Kate Rusby - Life in a Paper Boat
Fellerband - Road to Calais
Skinner & T'Witch - Calais Nights
Thea Gilmore - I Pity the Poor Immigrant
David Ferrard - I am an Immigrant (I'm From Here)
Julie Matthews - Road to Eden
Geoff Lakeman - The Road Together
June Tabor - Across the Wide Ocean

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Breabach gig review

Breabach at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal - 25 Feb 2017

At the start of this gig singer and guitarist Ewan Robertson said it had been a few years since they had played at the Brewery Arts Centre and asked if anyone in the audience had been there on that previous occasion. The silence was deafening, which took Ewan aback a bit, but by the end of the evening it didn't matter where all their old fans had gone as the new audience were on their feet applauding them like they were homecoming heroes.

Ewan, along with fiddler Megan Henderson, double bass player James Lindsay and pipers James Mackenzie and Calum MacCrimmon were in good spirits thanks to the Scottish victory over the Welsh at Murrayfield and the Cumbrian crowd was happy to join in the celebrations. While I'm sure I wasn't the only Scot in the audience, that old saying about the enemy of your enemy being your friend certainly applies in the Six Nations rugby tournament.

As for the music, there were plenty of tracks from their latest cd 'Astar' which includes compositions written on their travels to Scandanavia and Down Under. Each band member took it in turn to chat between numbers and there was some nice Outer Hebrides humour from James (We were poor but we were miserable!). I was mighty impressed with his flute playing - they are all accomplished musicians but I felt James' playing in particular was superb. Megan's Gaelic singing and step dancing are also worth a mention and there were some nice vocal harmonies when Ewan and Calum stepped up to their mics to accompany Megan. Ewan also gave us a lovely rendition of the Dick Gaughan song, "Outlaws and Dreamers".

With this having been the final date of the English leg of their current tour, they had the unenviable task of driving up to Inverness for a gig the following night, but on their current form I'm sure they will go down a storm in the Highlands. 

Hopefully it won't be another few years before Breabach play in the north-west of England again and all I can say to the band is, haste ye back!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Best Gigs of 2016

I didn't get to a huge number of gigs this year but enjoyed seeing the following at various venues mainly in the local area. The Lancaster Music Festival had another successful year with its mix of local, national and international acts and it was good to see local bands The Low Countries play to admittedly a rather small number of people at Lancaster Castle and Stephen Hudson & The Fiat Pandas play to a good-sized crowd at The Hall. 

Further afield The Village Pump Folk Festival in Wiltshire included a rousing set from The Proclaimers on the Saturday night, some good banter from Mark Radcliffe and his pirate pals in Galleon Blast and the discovery of the festival was Keith Christmas who has been around for many years but his music was new to me. Other highlights were Martin Simpson & Don Flemons, The Willows, Fara and Barluath.

If I'm pushed to choose a favourite gig I'll probably go for King Creosote. It was the first time I'd seen him with a band since the days of the Fence Collective when I lived in Fife back in the 1990s and early 2000s. 

Top 10 Gigs of 2016 (in date order)

Tim Dalling, The Gregson, Lancaster
Steve Knightley, Glasson Dock Village Hall
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman, The Hothouse, Morecambe
Gilmore & Roberts, Garstang Unplugged
Paddy Garrigan & The Stroller Priests, The Gregson, Lancaster
9Bach & Twelfth Day, The Hothouse, Morecambe
King Creosote, Cloudspotting Festival
Rory McLeod, Lancaster Music Festival
Jamie Smith's Mabon, Old Laundry Theatre, Bowness-on-Windermere
Belshazzar's Feast, The Hothouse, Morecambe

And check out my Recommended Albums of 2016

The Folk & Acoustic Music Show
Every Thursday at 8pm
On 103.5FM and online at

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Recommended Albums of 2016

This year has seen community radio return to the Lancaster & Morecambe area in the form of Beyond Radio. I started broadcasting my weekly Folk & Acoustic Music Show back in August and it's been great to be back on air doing live shows despite the odd technical hitch and occasional operator error! Thanks to Duncan, Chris and the rest of the team for getting the station up and running and great news regarding the successful Lottery bid which will provide much needed funds to further develop the station.

As far the music is concerned, my thanks once again go to the promoters and artists who have sent me CDs or free downloads of their music. I haven't had so many albums from North America this year which explains the mainly UK feel to the following list of releases since the start of the year. But I have enjoyed listening to albums by The High Bar Gang, Howard & Skye, Locust Honey String Band and Roger Roger from the other side of the pond. 

This list is purely in order of date of release.

Recommended Albums of 2016

Jamie Smith's Mabon - The Space Between
Nuala Kennedy - Behave the Bravest
Chamberlain & Haywood - First Impression
James J Turner - Spirit Soul & A Handful of Mud
Claire Hastings - Between River and Railway
Paddy Garrigan  & The Stroller Priests - I Jumped Ship
Megson - Good Times Will Come Again
Alice Jones  - Poor Strange Girl
Jenny Sturgeon - From the Skein
The Low Countries - An Extended Play
Barbara Dymock  - Leaf an' Thorn
Kaela Rowan - The Fruited Thorn
Kim Edgar  - Stories Untold
Broom Bezzums - No Smaller Than The World
Wire & Wool - Wire & Wool
Liza Mulholland - Fine 'n' Rosy
Kate Rusby - Life in a Paper Boat
Sarah-Jane Summers  & Juhani Silvola - Widdershins
Eddie & Luc - Tirade
Emily Smith - Songs for Christmas

I have put together a mix of tracks from many of the above albums and uploaded it to

The Folk & Acoustic Music Show
Every Thursday at 8pm
On 103.5FM and online at