Going on Holiday With The Entertainment Book.

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We paid $55 NZ for the Entertainment Book and saved roughly $360 Australian. That saved us over $300 on things we would have paid for any way!

We have just returned from ten days in Cairns and Port Douglas. They were ten lovely memory creating days and we had a fantastic time. We did all the tourist thing and even relaxed. The relaxing part was made easier and cheaper by my brain wave to buy the Entertainment Book for the Cairns, Port Douglas and Palm Cove Region.

The Entertainment Book is an Australasian thing, correct me if I am wrong. For those not in the know, it is a voucher book you buy for your area through a fundraising organisation. It can be a school, charity or other such organisation, they get a percentage of the cost for each book purchased. If you purchase another book the donation can still go to your local charity.

It gives you discounts for restaurants, attraction, hotel bookings and more. Last year the first digital editions was launched and we loved ours. Having the book on the phone was an excellent way to get maximum use out of it. Not having to carry a book or vouchers made life much easier. It also made the thought of having an Entertainment Book for our holiday easier.

Just a small lunch!

Just a small lunch! Al Porto.

We checked into our hotel Cairns and wandered out the door.We were hungry, confused and in a new city. I pressed the Near Me (circle with marked quarters) button and found we were right outside Al Porto Cafe. We ordered lunch and one of our adult up meals was free (roughly $20). Later that evening we went out for a fancy Thai meal and yet another meal was free (mains were $30). In just one day we had just about made the cost of the book back! Both meals were excellent.

Wallaby, yes, I ate the cute fluffy creature.

Wallaby, yes, I ate the cute fluffy creature.

Our holiday continued like this, we used the book as a guide of where to eat and where to visit. It became a running family joke overtime we went anywhere, “is it in the book?”. I even chose my birthday dinner using the book and we had an all Australian meal at Ochre, we saved $45 on that meal.

I am so impressed that I felt I just had to blog about it. Holidays are not cheap and it isn’t always easy to figure out what to do and where to eat in a new city. Having the Entertainment Book made our decision for us.

Double Shot Cafe banana pancakes.

Double Shot Cafe banana pancakes.

We also ate in some spots that we probably wouldn’t have even noticed or considered, I had some of the best banana pancakes I have ever eaten at Double Shot Cafe. I have to admit it is not somewhere we would have gone to without the voucher but it is one of the first places I would return to for excellent banana pancakes and good strong coffee.

My moussaka , it was vey good.

My moussaka , it was very good.

Not only did we go to different places, we were also helped out when we got to our chosen Italian and it was fully booked. We pressed the Near Me button and found we were just below Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar. It was right above the Italian. After checking the menu out we headed up and had some of the best Greek food we have eaten outside of Greece. It was very good and will certainly be on our must eat in Cairns list.

As we moved onto Port Douglas there are less eating opportunities but more activity based vouchers. We did visit Siam By The Sea in Port Douglas and saved $20. It was a lovely meal. Also we visited the Wildlife Habitat and one adult was free. Our biggest saving of the trip was an incredible 30% off our Great Barrier Reef trip.

The Silversonic boat.

The Silversonic boat.

The trip is not cheap , using the Entertainment Book we saved a massive $150 , yes, you read right. They took 30% off the price of our booking . Our trip was with The Silver Series Dive and Snorkel and we had an epic day out on the reef. It was everything it should have been and more. We even saw the first whales of the season on our way back to shore.

I have not been sponsored to write this post, I am just writing how much we got out of the Entertainment Book on our family holiday. It made life so much easier and saved us money at the same time. Below are some screen shots of our savings. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

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Logan Brown – Laughing and Lunching.

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Saturday 4th July 2015

This menu changes every 3 weeks.

Today I spent a good few hours laughing and eating lunch at Logan Brown. It is my birthday next week and also the birthday of a good friend Lucy, my special birthday buddy. I am away for the big day and we decided to lunch at Logan Brown. The email we both received from LB sealed the deal with its offer of 2 pre-theatre meals for $55. During the week we gained another two friends and picked up on the fact that if you mentioned you were a Hurricanes fan you got a free Hurricanes cocktail. It was a rather lovely cocktail too, it was fruity and delicious. Photo 4-07-15 12 50 14 pm Logan Brown is a beautiful restaurant. It is in an old bank and has something very European about it. I have been for dinner and High Tea before and knew what to expect. My expectations were met and even exceeded . The service we received was excellent, professional and friendly. Just how it should be. Photo 4-07-15 12 59 42 pm We started with the sour dough bread rolls, they were delicious . We then moved on to the shared tastes platter. This too was delicious. There was a range of tastes and everything was eaten. The olives were included as part of this, oh the olives, mmm. Photo 4-07-15 12 59 51 pm Our mains caused silence, yes, there were moments where nobody was talking. We were asked if we had any dietary needs and an alternative vegetarian was suggested which was a pasta dish with truffle, this was a hit and much admired by the rest of us. Lucy had the lamb and two of us chose the turkey. I was very impressed. There was an array of tastes and it was like having a very fancy Christmas dinner. I must confess to only having had the white breast meat of the turkey before. I am a changed woman as I really enjoyed the darker. Every plate at the table was left empty at the table so it is safe to say, we were all happy. Photo 4-07-15 1 30 05 pm The rest of my party chose the half glass wine matches. Our waiter explained each wine and why it went with the food. He was very confident and knowledgeable. I didn’t have the wine as I am not a wine drinker. I was happy with my cocktail. The wine drinkers enjoyed having the matches. Their favourite was the Clear View Sea Red that was matched with dessert. For dessert we all chose the tart and declared it perfect. The serving was just right, any more and it would have been too much. It was a perfect mix of the sweet caramel sauce with the dark chocolate. Photo 4-07-15 1 58 45 pm Logan Brown is one of those restaurants that for me, falls into the something special category . This trip ensured it stays in that place in my mind and I look forward to returning. I may just have to make up an occasion.

The Chippery – At Last We Got There.

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The Chippery started with the Mount Vic Chippery and then expanded to our side of town, the Thorndon Chippery. We have been meaning to visit since it opened but life with Miss Muffin has got in the way. She was off out on a jaunt with friends today and we decided that this was the day.We did the food shopping and popped out the back of New World Thorndon, the Chippery is just across the road.

There is something great about doing the food shopping and then going somewhere for lunch, it feels bad, so very bad. Having fried stuff just adds to this bad but good. The Chippery was good, oh so very good.

One thing you need to know about The Chippery is that it is not your conventional chips in paper place, this is classy fish and chips. It is more expensive and it is very good quality. We ate in and were served our food on wooden blocks. On the table there were forks, salt , pepper and vinegar. I was so pleased to see vinegar as it is an English staple with chips and not often seen in New Zealand.

Right, onto our food. Mr M ordered Gurnard in a beer batter with a large scoop of hand cut agria fries. His fish was in three pieces and the serve of fries was huge. He didn’t finish all of them and would like it noted, it was due to the size of the serve and he loved them. I decided to be a different and went for the fish balls. I had no idea of the size and ordered two and a small portion of hand cut agria fries. I too had too much food and left some fries and a bit of a fish ball.

Those fish balls are going to call me back and beckon me in with their fragrant ways. They were delicious. They crumb on the outside was crisp and the flavour inside was fresh. I would liken them to a grown up fish cake. There was the taste of coriander, chilli and the lemon I squeezed on them. My mouth is watering just thinking about their loveliness. I also tried Mr muffins fish, that was good too and I know we will be back with Miss so she can demolish some too. She will also help make a bigger dent on those fabulous hand cut agria fries.

The fries do deserve a big mention. They are big fries and crispy in all the right places. We Muffins love agree spuds and would be hard pushed to try any of the other assortment of chips on offer. Go see for yourself.

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Osteria Del Toro – La Famiglia Lunch (Sunday Family Lunch)

From Osteria Del Toro’s Website-

“Gather family and friends for La Famiglia Lunch (the family lunch) beginning with a spread of antipasto, salads, breads and cheeses, followed by pizza, paella, pasta and home-style meat dishes. There’s plenty of delicious things to choose from, and kids eat for free!
There is even a Bloody Mary bar where to shake-up a delicious cocktail to just the right spiciness.

From 11.30am , every Sunday

Adults $32.90
Children under 14 years $14.90
Kids under 5, free”

We went with another family for the Sunday Family Feast, the main reason being to use the Entertainment Book Voucher. We all enjoyed ourselves, came away with great big smiles on our faces and very full bellies.

We sat, we chatted, we ate, we chatted, we ate some more… you get the picture. The table of delights was excellent, the breads were amazing and filled with all sorts of meats and cheese and so fresh. I have been to the feast before and for Christmas dinner, this time was the very best.

The buffet table was outstanding, there were salads of all varieties as well as freshly sliced meats. Everything tasted different and the ingredients varied from dish to dish. It was impressive.

The food served to the table was equally as good, we managed to make a good dent too. It is such a good concept. The pizza was fresh with a good base, the pasta was tasty, the risotto was delicious and the chicken was perfect.

Our feast was marvelous. I am not one for using that word, but it was just that. The whole meal was relaxed and one of those eating out experiences that stays in your memory forever. Sigh.

Al’s Deli – at last !

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Eating my Al’s Deli Poutine Burger

A while ago I had a few days in Auckland to eat all the things. Al’s Deli was one place on my list that we just didn’t get to. When I found out I was going to Auckland for work I decided I must remedy this and test the place out for Mr Muffin. I am rather pleased I did, and I met up with a great bunch of people that I know mainly via Twitter, they all enjoyed their meal too.

Al’s Deli is one of those places that you either know about or are surprised about when you find out about it. It is at the top of Queens Street and on that little hill (City Road) that leads up the back of The Langham Hotel. It is decorated like a diner and has marvellous 1950’s tables. Order a Coke and it comes in a Coke glass, we all know that makes it taste better? I had the cherry coke in my special glass. I rarely drink Coke or fizzy drinks and really enjoyed the fizzy cherry bubbles.

The Al's Deli Poutine Burger.

The Al’s Deli Poutine Burger.

For my main I had the Poutine Burger, it is a burger bun with a delicious beef patty, fries, gravy and cheese curds. It was satisfying, the stuff of future dreams and I succeeded in eating it from the bun and not using cutlery. I did cut it in half after the photo was taken and would recommend this method.

Others had an assortment of food including chicken wings, fries topped with pulled pork pork, chicken burgers and falafel burger. There were moments of eating silence, which is always a good sign. There were also claims of being very full (including me) but most of us found our dessert stomach.

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Moose Ear with Nutella and Banana

On my last visit to Auckland I was very curious about the Moose Ears on the Sweet Treats section of the menu. I asked a staff member which version she recommended and the Nutella and banana topped Moose Ear was ordered. Others ordered the Banana Split, Moose Ear with bacon and maple syrup and lucky Wendy Wings got the last Apple Pie Fries. My Moose Ears were delicious and I really enjoyed trying something different, I liked the fried base and would have it again. It would make a good breakfast. I also got to try one of the legendary Apple Pie Fries, they were good too and I would certainly try to get a whole portion at some point.

Al’s Deli is certainly somewhere I would go back to and take the family. I really liked the diner style setting and the food. It is one of those places where you have to be prepared to eat fried things and leave very full. I look forward to my next trip and it worth the walk up Queens Street.

Reviews and my thoughts.

Pondering.

Pondering.

I feel rather conscious that I often post positive reviews about products and particularly, restaurants. I have been pondering this and the reasons why? I feel the need to blog about it, mainly for my peace of mind.

I have one post on here that is very negative about a business, it was such a bad experience that I felt the need to share in hope that it would make others think about visiting there too. My day time boss didn’t listen and wishes he did, he did the same as me and sat there wishing he had gone to the locally owned restaurant not wasted the dollars.

I still feel a little bad about posting a  negative review , after all , this place must suit some people’s needs and employs local people. It is often busy and because people have a different view of eating to mine, this doesn’t make them wrong. However I fight the internal urge to picket outside and demand that people go up the road for a $10 curry with rice and naan.

My expectations when eating out  involve leaving feeling satisfied, feeling comfortable in the place I am eating and having choice to order a variety of meals that it would be hard to cook at home. If you have read and of my reviews on here or on Zomato you will see that I am not about the cost or what the environment looks like or about being seen at the latest in place. I love good food and I love telling others my discoveries. That is just what they are, my discoveries.

My tastes are not your tastes. I am happy to walk in to a dark dingy sticky floor if someone tells me they do a good plate of noodles. It doesn’t make any difference to me if the plate of food cost $8 or $80. What matters to me is it puts a smile on my face and I can plot when I can next return and what I will order.

All up, I wont be doing negative reviews. New Zealand is such a small country and so many in hospitality work so hard to keep their businesses afloat and the opinions on the internet do have an impact on people choosing where to eat. I am happy to influence others when I have good things to say and love reading or hearing what others think. I get real satisfaction when I am thanked for recommending a random out of the way restaurant that people wouldn’t have otherwise known about or considered.

Thanks for reading and I feel better for putting my thoughts out there.

We ate Auckland-well as much as we could in nearly 4 days.

My lovely parents are visiting from the UK at the moment and we had a few air points that needed using. In built babysitters meant Mr Muffin and I could get away for a long weekend. Auckland has changed a lot since we last visited in 2008 and I kept hearing all these things about restaurants and so I just had to go and try them for myself, Mr didn’t object.

I was given a top tip on getting a good rate for The Langham. After years of backpacking I love the idea of staying in the nicer hotels. This top tip meant we hit the jackpot and stayed at The Langham for a very reasonable rate . How to get a good rate can be found here –  The Langham. Look at the reservation box and follow the instructions for Best Rate Guaranteed and make sure you join  the 1865 club. It was a very lovely hotel to stay at and in a great location. While it is not in the middle of town and up the top of Queen Street, around the corner is K-Road and a short walk away, Ponsonby. This gives you so many extra choices for eating. If you do go down the hill, you can always catch a bus or the hotel shuttle back up. I saw the positive in the hill, it meant excersise.

I have posted my reviews on Zomato as we used the site all the time and it means more get to read my reviews! Seriously, the site is good and we used the maps to figure out where the places were.

I would like to mention a couple of people before I go off on a food tangent, I would like to thank Glen for our steak tartare show, @Wendywings and AnnaRosa for Giapo memories and my birthday buddy Lucy blogged about an Auckland food frenzy too –

Wellington Foodies in AKL for 48 Hours of Diehard Foodie Adventures with Auckland Foodie

Friday

We arrived at lunch time (everything in my life revolves around meal times) and headed off along K-Road to look for lunch.

Hanoi Village 

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Lovely fresh food, I had lemon grass chicken and there was plenty of it.
The bowl could have done with a bit more flavour added with a bit more dressing and chilli. There wasn’t  any sauce out on any tables to add some power.
Would go back and ask for a side of chilli.

In the evening we heading for a few drinks, I asked twitter where we should go and was told about Vultures’ Lane Craft Beer Bar. We enjoyed ourselves trying a couple of new beers before heading to The Grill.

It had taken me a long time to decide where I wanted to be my Friday night dinner, this being the first night. A week before we left I booked The Grill and I am mighty glad I did.

The Grill-

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From the beginning the service was excellent and it stayed that way all evening. It is hard to define what good service is and I would say that here it was making you feel like a guest that was expected and welcome. The food was excellent too.

We enjoyed the bread and Lewis Road Creamery butter, moved onto the steak tartare which was prepared at the table. This was an experience in itself and excellent. It tasted even better after seeing how it was done and adding the right amount of Kaitaia Fire for our tastes.
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For mains I had the excellent burger and Mr had the rib eye aged on the bone.

The burger was a perfectly balanced and delicious, the rib eye was declared in the top 3 for the best steak ever. As for sides, mine came with a cone of duck fat chips, we also had onion rings and the Curious cropper’s tomato salad with red onion, basil, olive oil.
The tomatoes were fantastic, haven’t had a green tomato for years. The onion rings were the best ever, I likened them to my favourite best bits of hot chips, those crispy bits in the bottom, with onion inside. Chips were great too.

We managed to read the dessert menu over our full bellies and were advised of the 20 minute wait for Valrhona chocolate soufflé, vanilla ice cream as it is made from scratch, this sounded like a perfect wait so we ordered that and the Pippin’s strawberry soup, strawberry sorbet and basil. The soup had Mr giggling at how odd it was but how good it was and I may have sighed a bit whilst eating the chocolate soufflé .

If you are reading this wondering if you should go, do it, book it and eat it all.

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Saturday

We were too full for breakfast. I had a lunch planned that was really a high tea, or as they call it at The Langham, Tiffin Tea. After a great coffee me and Mr parted ways and I headed back to the hotel to meet a friend.

Palm Court, The Langham- 

I have had a few high teas in my time and have often come away not really full up, there was no way this was going to happen here. When I found out the session times I opted for the 11.30am-2pm Tiffin Tea time. This seemed to be the most logical as it covered lunch and then meant I could still have dinner later.
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I met a girlfriend at the hotel for a catch up and we both wore pretty dresses. We were seated in our lovely comfortable chairs and given the tea menu. We both went for the same iced tea , Rose C’est La Vie and enjoyed it.

Our triple layer tiffin tea tower arrived and we were talked through the food. We did as told and started at the bottom and slowly made our way towards the top. This included smoked salmon, ham and a slight odd melon jelly.

After the middle tier was finished we were served scones with clotted cream. The cream was rather on the runny side and had no crust, I am a clotted cream fan and was slight disappointment. It all tasted good though and the scones were nice and light.

After the scones we moved on to the sweet morsels and a second iced tea. We both went for the Pharaoh of the Orient, a mint tea with liquorice bark, this was refreshing against all the sweet and a good choice.

We finished the sweet and were offered more cake. We were given a sample of each type available, yes, more sweet. I wasn’t complaining.

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To sum up, don’t have breakfast, don’t plan lunch-be prepared to eat and eat. I thought that 2 1/2 hours was a long time to fill, no it isn’t when conquering a mound of Tiffin Tea.
This is the best High Tea I have had.

Sawadee, Ponsonby-

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As we fancied Thai food we used Zomato, read the reviews and as it was raining hard we ended up here at Sawadee, not too far from hotel we were staying at. This place fills up fast so it may be wise to book.

The building is beautifully fitted out and the look is very Thai. It was well staffed and we were looked after.

We started with the Garif Puff and Deep Friend Corn Cakes. Both were good and served in large portion sizes. We could have managed on just one. For mains we each had different dishes to what we would normally choose.  Mr went for a hot one- the Gai Fai curry, it wasn’t hot enough for him but he enjoyed it. I had the Tiger Milk Curry, I couldn’t resist because it sounded so strange. It was odd but did work, the bits of banana were nice. I enjoyed the dish but would have liked a few more vegetables in with the chicken.

All up, this was a lovely meal in a lovely location and we would go back. I would probably go for the stir fries or salads next time.

Sunday.

We didn’t wake up intending to eat as much as we did on this epic eating day, it just kind of happened. There was a ferry trip over to Devenport, lots of walking ( about 13kms ) and a few trips up and down Queen Street between food stops.

The Federal Delicatessen- 

Loved it the minute we walked in. We had an aisle table near the counter and could see everything being made fresh and it was great. I went with the idea of having something light but the words-blueberry griddle cakes came out of my mouth.

Mr went for the half grapefruit and a hot dog. We both had the coffee and went for Havana, it could have been stronger. It was a fair bit weaker than I would make at home. It was good to get it topped up.

The food was enjoyed by both of us.Mr actually got a whole grapefruit for his serving, this kept him happy. He also enjoyed the hot dog and the novelty of having it for breakfast.

My griddle cakes were the best pancake/hotcake/griddlecake thing I have ever had, they were perfect. I didn’t get a photo as I was busy helping them to vanish. All the components served with them helped make them so wonderful. I would certainly order these again. I wish they would open in Wellington.

My one gripe would be the dreaded plate being removed while someone else was still eating. All of Mr’s side was cleared while I was still half way though mine, awkward.

Baduzzi-

Lovely, said with a sigh, that sums up Baduzzi.

This visit we went for a late lunch, next time we will return in the evening. Mr has already decided we must go back so that he can have all the meatballs, I am happy with that idea.

We just shared one portion and some amazing bread as a starter. The lamb ones were judged as the ones to be tried this visit. They were good, so good.
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For mains I chose the buttered maltagliati with buttercup, crystallised pumpkin seed and pickled black walnuts. When I ordered I was advised that the version with the duck is better but as I am not a duck fan and fancied vegetarian , I went for this option. It was lovely, all the tastes went together wonderfully and the pasta was perfect.  Mr had the flat iron steak with rocket and mashed potato. He enjoyed his meal too.

Baduzzi was a lovely experience and I will look forward to going back.  Next time will involve more bread, more meatballs, a main and dessert.

Shortly after finishing this meal we were due to meet @Wendywings and family at Giapo. We rushed across town , raced up the hill and met with Wendy and her family. We also met AnnaRosa and children, Giapo himself was overseas. This is an amazing place and so very clever. It is a must.

Giapo-

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The attached photos doesn’t do this place justice. Many have posted decent photos and you really need to see the creations with your own eyes, have a look on Facebook and Instagram .

Every time we walked past there were queues, I got a message from a twitter friend that she was going to be in town and we could meet them there. After a very fast walk from Baduzzi we made it and took our place in line.

Thanks to Wendy Wings and family we had our turn, tried many flavours and made our choices. We were told that these choices change regularly so don’t go expecting to get what you may see in a review, just go, try and chose. You can’t see the ice-cream so your choice is based on flavour, very clever.

I went for the dark chocolate cup with freeze-dried raspberries and a raspberry and pavlova ice-cream . It was so good, the stuff of dreams and the decoration was excellent. Mr enjoyed his too, it involved nuts, toffee and salt. Do it, go in, face the queue.

Besos Latinos 

Photo 18-01-15 7 44 14 pmWe came here for a small meal after eating all day.

It was a lovely spot in the corner and out of the hustle and bustle of the main area.
I had a mojito and have to say, it was fantastic. So fresh and well made. Mr tried to order a beer he hadn’t tried from the menu but it wasn’t available.
For meals we started with the Bean Dip, it was nice and tasty. The bowl was a good depth so there was plenty of dip, nice touch.
For mains I went with chicken and cheese quesadilla, it was a large size and had a lovely side salad. Mr went for all the meat and had the tacos Don Hugo, they were meat, more meat and some meat. He enjoyed them.
This was a good simple light meal and I would go back to try more of their menu.
What a day of eating that was, it was what I wanted out of a day in a different city. In fact the whole weekend was everything I hoped it would be. There is just one last review on our eating Auckland trip, breakfast.
Monday.
Yes, we managed breakfast. We went back to where we had a good coffee.
The Scullery-
Am giving a 5 because I can’t fault this place. We stopped by one morning just for a coffee and it was a very good coffee so we came back for breakfast.
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Our second cups of coffee were excellent too, as was the breakfast. It wasn’t a speedy affair, so don’t come in a rush. It was done carefully and well.
I had been dreaming about the brioche, there were 3 options and I went for the peanut and chocolate one. It was shaped like a huge muffin and I had mine toasted. It was cut in half and came with butter. It was good, oh so good. The balance of the bread and filling was perfect. This was a seriously good bread based experience.
Mr had what on the menu as a toasted sandwich with half inch think bacon, fried egg and tomato kasundi. It was rather fancy. It was beyond your average toasted sandwich. He ate it with a smile.

We would both go back for the coffee alone and now the food too.

So, we did it. There are still more places I would like to try and I am sorry we didn’t get to Al’s Deli , that was my one missed place. I am sure I can find a reason to go back, stay at The Langham and eat.