Gongoozling, pie and guava jelly

A gongoozler is a person who enjoys watching activity on the canals in the United Kingdom. ‘Gongoozler’ may have been canal workers’ slang for an observer standing apparently idle on the towpath. Though it was used derisively in the past, today the term is regularly used, perhaps with a little irony, by gongoozlers to describe themselves and their hobbyWikipedia.

greyhound

Going a bit off my usual northern patch with this one – a canalside pub in Coventry which was also a bit of a trip down memory lane.

The Greyhound Inn sits at an important waterway junction where the Coventry Canal meets the Rugby waterway and in times gone by was a strategically important transport hub for working boats carrying goods.
pieparlour
The Inn, the facilities for water, rubbish, toilets etc. are still important for boat folk and were a regular port of call for us when we lived afloat – including a memorable winter when we were iced in and unable to return to our regular mooring.

I have to admit that being iced in at outside a pub which serves great food and just a hop skip and a jump from one of the city’s main curry centres wasn’t that much hardship tbh!

One of the best things on the menu back then was a bit fancy in hindsight – rich fish (Bouillabaisse style) stew served with French bread and helpings of grated cheese.

But its big claim to fame is pies so, here’s the chicken, leek and mushroom variety. What can I say……I think you can tell from the picture we’re talking about a mouth melting pastry and a pie packed with filling.
pie
No sloppy measures here and they serve gravy separately if you prefer your pie experience rather runnier.

The post blow out lunch walk took us up the canal to admire the visiting and resident craft. If you’re ever looking for a reminder of English eccentricity and individualism I’d recommend a walk along your nearest tow path.

On this trip I spotted this foodie inspired example which prompts you to wonder way, why someone would name their home after a Colombian confectionary product.

guavajelly

Even so, nothing will beat the highly memorable and beautifully traditional sign-written example we once spotted near Wolverhampton proudly bearing the legend, Morning Flatulence.

Finding value for money eats in Venice

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Beautiful, memorable and endlessly interesting as Venice is, it’s not cheap for eating out. I’ve picked the three places below out for their value.

Living it up: Trattoria al Ponte del Megio, 
S. Croce, 1666.
This is my favourite of all the places I’ve eaten out in Venice. On several visits, over several years, this friendly trattoria on a canal junction is consistently good. Weather allowing, sit outside and watch the gondaliers (sometimes noisely) negotiate their right of way along the narrow canal or simply watch the passing parade of stylish people on a night out.
The menu always includes an interesting selection of specials alongside the usual local specialities of pasta with cuttlefish or clams.
This spring visit we were lucky enough to be just in time for that fleeting delicacy – fried courgette flowers. Light and crispy with each holding just a little anchovy stuffing. Sublime! Fresh fillets of John Dory or a simply grilled sea bream followed. The vegetable portions are simply cooked – in this case spinach, carrots and ratatouille but the fact the ingredients are so fresh means everything is bursting with flavour. The house prosecco – sold by the half litre jug – is good and dry and means that wine doesn’t need to set you back too much and the hosts always offer an end of meal liquer on the house. Our meal for five with drinks, two courses and side dishes came in at 170 euros.

Can’t go wrong with pizza:Pizzeria Accademia, Rio Terra Foscarini.
Essentially a snack bar, this is worth a visit on outside seating views alone. Nestled into the great Accademia bridge, it’s easily found after a day of art and next to the vaporetto stop of the same name. The pizza is good, but in a land where all pizza is good, it’s not exceptional. What is exceptional is a front seat to the spectator sport of watching the Grand Canal traffic. Maybe Venetians find this as interesting as a day out to watch the M6 but, for us visitors, bring able to see the gondaliers plie their trade alongside the utilities of a floting city provides an endlessly entertaining and colourful backdrop to a companiable lunch or early evening. Downsides are ever present birds around the table and lack of salad accompaniment options – it’s a giant salad for approx 10 euros (with cheese?) only. Wine’s on the pricier side at 10 euros for 0.5 litres, pizza in the 10-12 euro vicinty. Cash only.

Fed up of Italian food: Chinese Restaurant, The Frari.
I realise I’m risking the wrath of a nation here but…….some people do get fed-up with pasta and pizza even on their holidays – not me of course, you understand.
I’ve picked out this Chinese because it is exceptionally good value – most dishes are around the 5 Euro mark – but also because the staff are so accommodating and helpful. They will guide your choices should you wish and have some unusual dishes such as cuttlefish with green peppercorn alongside the more commonplace.

Other bits and bobs – we had intended to eat at the Trattoria San Toma which the guide book Chow Venice recommends for its impossibly light gnocchi but, sadly on our short break, it was always completely booked out so will have to wait for a return trip to sample. If you happen to eat there please do let me know if it’s worth the wait. A couple of general points about eating out in Venice – check the cover price. Usually there’s a euro or two to add to each person’s bill but in San Marco this can be boosted up to seven to pay for the benefit of having music in the cafe!
The local drink to ask for is a Spritz bitter, a refreshing Campari based drink usually served with an olive and at three euros is a value apperitif.

Buon appetito!