Thursday, 30 June 2016

Food Review: Cafe Zoot

I'm a bit of a foodie these days and so I thought I might start to put up my thoughts about local restaurants in the area.

First off :

CAFE ZOOT, Bailgate, Lincoln.

David and I have eaten at Cafe Zoot quite a few times in the past. We've even taken friends there and my overall perception of the place is that it is an efficiently run restaurant with very pleasant surroundings. Comfortable seating with some intimate areas as well as front of the house tables.

I have mostly sat at the back part of the restaurant (which I prefer because it is more intimate) or once or twice we've been upstairs.

We haven't eaten there for a while, but today, as a treat because I'd just finished writing POSING FOR PICASSO - my fifteenth novel - David took me into Lincoln and our first choice of eating place was Cafe Zoot.

There are many really good restaurants in Lincoln that I'll discuss another time but for lunch this one is not the cheapest, is slightly upmarket, and food tends to be more Noveau Cuisine.

We decided we'd have a more substantial lunch than we usually do. I often opt for a Jacket Potato at some restaurants and cafes when I'm trying to take the healthy option - but Cafe Zoot doesn't have those on the menu - so we both went for Blue Cheese Mushrooms to start. David chose Chicken Supreme as his main and I opted for Calamari Salad.

STARTER Blue Cheese Mushrooms £5.25. 


It wasn't what we were expecting to be honest as I had perhaps thought the mushrooms would be stuffed with blue cheese in bread crumbs and the sauce around them or separate for dipping.

What arrived was mushrooms sauted in a blue cheese and walnut sauce, and it came is a wide brimmed bowl that had a very small, shallow bowl area. Also with this was a piece of bread which could have been wholegrain and was possibly homemade.

Presentation mostly relied on the white bowl - not really anything more than a dish of mushrooms in a brownish sauce really. But it did look tasy anyway. David remarked afterwards that blue cheese crumbled on the top might have enhanced the look of this dish.


The bread alone tasted a little stale - but I'm not a lover of hardish breads so I'm assuming it was meant to be that way. I had to ask for butter as they didn't automatically bring it. With butter the bread was better and easier to eat.

The mushrooms themselves were very tasty. I could taste the blue cheese in the sauce. Thought it was rather salty, but nicely flavoured. I ate it all quickly. The bread and butter did compliment this wet dish in the end too.

Portion Size

Small portion as my 'Noveau Cuisine' comment above suggests. Could have eaten much more of it. But knowing I had a main coming I didn't worry too much or think this was a problem. (Best to have less and leave you wanting more, I think!) So satisfactory portion size.

Service Between Courses/ Staff Attentiveness

Service was fairly quick and we didn't have to wait too long for the mains which they brought together. We were asked if we had enjoyed the first course. We had, so we said so.

MAIN Calamari Salad £10.50/ Supreme of Chicken £13.95

David's Supreme of Chicken had a substantial piece of chicken breast with a small amount of mash, a couple of carrots and a tiny piece of brocolli. All were surrounded by an impressive sauce which was a vibrant green. Overall the presentation was extremely nice. The Chicken looked as though it had been pan-fried and was nicely browned. Overall lovely presentation. It looked appetising.

My Calamari Salad came in a wide shallow bowl and this was the first surprise. The calamari was not hot, nor was it battered. This was an assumption I had made - obviously wrongly. It was mixed into a salad which didn't look particularly appetising as it was the usual salad bits with boring white calamari rings in it and a couple of wedges of lemon.


Calamari Salad

The cherry tomotoes were fresh in the salad but, even after squeezing the lemon over it, the calamari and salad had absolutely no flavour to any of it. The calamari was rubbery. Bland. Not good at all.

I have never in my life complained in a restaurant - but when the young man who was serving came to ask if we liked it I told him I was disappointed and that the meal was bland. It absolutely had no taste at all to it. I could have been eating anything. He said he would mention it to the kitchen and he disappeared. Soon after, my plate barely touched - I sent the meal back.

Supreme of Chicken

I did taste David's meal and it was as nice as it looked. He really enjoyed the small carrots and said they were tasty as well as the delicious sauce and mash. His only complaint was that the chicken was a little over done and quite dry, but the delicious sauce made up for this. He ate all of his meal.

Portion Sizes

As expected for the type of restaurant.  A little on the small side but as in the case of the Chicken very tasty and nicely presented.

Salads vary and you never know what you'll get from one place to another with size. I had no expectations therefore and wasn't disappointed by the size. There was a fair amount of Calamari rings in the salad. Sadly though it was flavourless. Otherwise, portion was fine.

After Dinner Service.

I cannot fault the service here because the manageress (I think) came to see me and had removed the price of the Calamari Salad from our bill (rightly so as I didn't eat it). She apologised for herself and for the staff member who I had given my meal back to (apparently he should have offered me another meal choice but didn't know the procedure).

He was very apologetic and I told him that I completely understood and it was fine. And you can't be cross if people treat you fairly and are polite to you!!  I felt they handled us really well. Good service, even to acknowledge and admit where they failed.

Would I Go Back?


The food in this restaurant is usually really good - I've had other meals there and this was the first to disappoint. So yes. Very willing to try it again.

They handled my complaint really well and also listened afterwards when I explained what I thought could improve the calamari (hot and battered would have been an improvement and some form of seasoning on that and the salad too).

Review 6/10 this time. But I'm sure it will be much better when we go again.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


I'm delighted to be part of this great project that is currently seaking crowd funding with kickstarter.

'Heroes of Red Hook' is an anthology of Lovecraftian stories brought to you by Golden Goblin Press and edited by Brian M Sammons and Oscar Rios.

My story TELL ME NO LIES goes into territories I've rarely delved. And if you want to read it and the other superb stories in this book then you need to make it happen.

How can you do that? Well you can check out the kickstarter for the full details and maybe even find a few pounds/dollars/euros to back the project and bag yourself one of the many brilliant perks.

Find out more HERE

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Creativity isn't your right. It doesn't come for free. It takes hard work. It takes belief. It takes imagination.

Real creatives suffer for their art. Otherwise, what they produce is regurjitations of other people's ideas.

You can take the easy road and schmooze your way to the top or you can be true to yourself.
Which one are you? I know which way I swing.

Monday, 20 June 2016


For the past few years since becoming a professional writer I have been replying to the many emails and private messages from wannabe writers who want me to read their work. I'm not exaggerating when I say I get several of these requests a day.

You may not realise this but it puts me in a very awkward position. I am by nature very polite and obliging. And so it is difficult for me to say 'no'. I try really hard to be nice to everyone online. It is very easy for people to take what you say the wrong way. And that's why I try to avoid ambiguity in my answers.

I really don't have time to read other people's work. Even if I wanted to. And my agent has advised me not to do because writers have been accused of 'stealing' other people's ideas.

I find this difficult to believe myself, because we all have enough of our own that we can't find  the time to write up - so why would you need anyone else's ideas? The thing is though, we may accidentally, absorb the idea and it might come out in a different way even years from now. And then someone can come back to you and say - that was mine you stole it!

It's not the only reason I say no though.

I had a man come up to me at an event not long ago who basically dropped his manuscript onto my table. He expected me to read it and give him some validation, yet he didn't even pick up and look at one of the books I had for sale. And he didn't buy one, either. Yet he thought it was perfectly reasonable to give me his work to read. I naturally refused to look, explaining my agent's view on it, and the man left in a huff.

I really can't imagine going up to one of my contemporaries when they are at a signing event for their own writing, and asking if they would look at something I had written. Can you imagine asking Stephen King to read your unpublished manuscript for comments and help?

Think about that for a moment please.

I am often bombarded at events by people who want to be writers, say in fact they are writers, and I'm expected to politely look at their works, when they don't pay any attention to mine. I find myself listening to their one-way conversations as they talk at me: politely nodding as I hear in detail about the novel that they will write one day. I'm relieved when a genuine reader comes up and I can turn away from them, hoping they will go while I'm busy. Or at least do the right thing and buy a book before deciding that I am the only person that can critique their own work. The mind boggles at this totally self absorbed behaviour, that shows a complete lack of social etiquette. Imagine that online now. And how people have even less consideration when they talk to you digitally.

And I'm definitely not talking about those among you who have been extremely lovely and polite in your asking. It was so hard for me to say no to you, but I hope now you understand why a bit better, and it wasn't me being mean, or disinterested. I am interested. Too much to my own workload sometimes. But I can't and I'm sorry I couldn't help and advise you. Thanks for understanding, and taking it so nicely when I said no. I really appreciated that more than you can know.

That is not to say, of course, that I will not give advice on writing. And I do. I deliver workshops frequently, for writers groups and at events. I have given out my email to genuinely talented people who I felt had a future in writing. I am willing to talk at my table to interesting people about writing - especially when it is a proper discussion and not them just talking at me, more interested in their own ideas than anything that I might have to say.

Anyway, I wanted to put this note up, in the hope that you'll better understand how difficult it is for writers to help others by reading their work. It is incredibly hard to make a living these days as a writer and every moment we spend answering these requests, polite or otherwise, takes us away from our precious writing time.

And just remember, I'm not being mean when I say no.