Sometimes it's nice to get out of London. Not much, but sometimes. And Windsor is a good destination as any to do so; trains from Waterloo or Paddington take under and hour and a return is about a tenner.
Unfortunately, the day I needed to get there all hell had broken loose at Paddington and no trains were going anywhere. Ideal. I jumped in an Uber with a trusty pop up wine and even with Friday night traffic 45 minutes later was happily ensconsed in Browns (everyone goes there for the view), bellini in hand for some pre-dinner drinks.
Friday night equals curry night and we had a table booked at Mango Lounge - a contemporary style Indian restaurant - and I couldn't wait. Weirdly enough, we'd been to an Indian wedding this summer where Mango Lounge had done the catering, so I knew it was good.
I got to wear a sari, which was a lifelong ambition, and there was this excellent 'Tiger Prawn Martini' (£9.50), a Mango Lounge signature dish which they say is "Succulent warm water prawns marinated in lemon juice, ginger, garlic and anise, coated with rice flakes and deep-fried. Presented in a shot glass, layered with a trio of chutneys and topped with a dash of martini". Biggest prawns I've seen in a while, too.
The restaurant itself is bright with clean lines, nice linen and striking fuchsia walls. There was a good Friday buzz to it and the staff couldn't have been better as we dithered annoyingly over the menu before ordering almost everything in sight. Every dish we ordered arrived perfectly presented and tasted even better than it looked. I couldn't possibly go through everything, but the Soft Shell Crab (£8.50) was exceptional, having been marinated and fried to a crisp in black pepper and exotic spices:
The Crab Xec Xec - a Goan coconut saucy soft shell crab dish I had for my main was also remarkable. I wish I could eat it now.
This little guinea fowl starter is worth a punt, too:
Look, just order it all. You can't go wrong. It's really tasty, really inventive Indian cooking that guarantees you won't just come home having eaten your standard tikka masala.
If you're not in the mood for an Indian, then you could do worse than go and check out Cornucopia, a little French / Mediterranean bistro opposite the castle.
It's cosy, welcoming and really chilled out, so was perfect for our large party including two babies. We were with family who live in Windsor: they love it here and recommend visiting after the Christmas carols at the castle - and if you can come at a time when the bargainous set menu is available then even better. Service was charming and friendly and the menu is varied enough that you will definitely fancy something on it. I went with escargots because I bloody love them, and £7 is not bad at all.
Around the table, the moules marniere, the soup and the lamb cutlets all got a good reception. Here's the lamb:
I can also attest that the children's portion of chilli con carne is delicious! Sadly we were all too full for pudding, and whilst there was an initial plan to walk off dinner and head to an apparently amazing ice cream place, our eyes were somehow much bigger than our bellies so that will have to wait for another day.
If you've time, a trip to Windsor should not be complete without a small detour to the Windsor Farm Shop. Set in the pretty Berkshire countryside on the way to Datchet, this is a haven of foodie goodies and lovely fresh local produce that makes food geeks like me very happy indeed.
The butcher's counter is a thing of beauty - it's massive - and I could hardly stand to look at the piles of freshly made pies, deli items and crates of cobnutes, romanesco and wild mushrooms for fear of bankrupting myself. As it was, I came away with the bare essentials of beautiful Toulouse sausages, wild mallard, duck eggs and a sizeable chunk of Picanha steak.
People flock to the shop thanks to its lovely little cafe, where you can have homemade cake, craft beers, wine and decent coffee in or out and enjoy the view.
This has turned into rather a mammoth post, but I must share with you the power of the Picanha - such was its beauty that it even tempted my usually reluctant husband to cook. This is a rare sight, but my goodness it was a happy one:
As it was a Brazilian cut, we felt it only proper to have it South American style and he prepared an amazing chimichurri of coriander, parsley, birds eye chilli, garlic and lemon juice all blitzed up with olive oil before simply griddling the steak with some garlic and oregano. Picanha doesn't have the deep rich flavour of something like bone in rib eye, but at roughly a third of the price we were massively impressed. We will be back to buy all the Picanha soon.