Garden Of Delight

Posted on 29th December 2008

Back in the Summer, we went on a family holiday to Torquay, as we had done the previous year. The year before we found a nice Indian restaurant, so had planned to revisit it again this year. Except this year I couldn't remember the name of the restaurant, and figuring there might be somewhere a bit closer to the hotel, reached for the internet. Sure enough there was somewhere closer, and certainly within walking distance, however it was a little odd to actually find only one review of all the Indian restaurants in and around Torquay. It was a glowing review mind, and even though it was for a Balti restaurant, we decided to give it a try.

Now for those unfamiliar with Indian restaurants, the Balti dish is very much associated with Birmingham, and despite several disputes as to its origins, most accept that you cannot get a decent Balti outside of Birmingham. Of course that isn't entirely true, but Birmingham has certain perfected the cuisine to such an extent that others don't seem to capture the flavours quite so well. Having said that, I do like a good balti, so was willing to give this restaurant a try.

The Balti Garden is just off the main high street heading away from Torquay harbour and the seafront, and within easy reach of carparks if necessary. It is in competition with a few other restaurants nearby, but the bright and welcoming frontage certainly draws attention to itself. The staff are also very welcoming and friendly, and seemed very used to accommodating children. The menu on offer covered a broad selection of curry dishes, including a healthy selection of Baltis.

I ordered a Lamb Tikka starter and Lamb Tikka Balti, Nicole chose her favourite of Garlic Mushrooms starter and a Sag Paneer & chips for her main. Dan and Ethne are used to curries and usually go for something a bit spicy, but the waiter recommended Chiken Tikka Pasander for them to share. The food was absolutely delicious and we all dug in, pretty much leaving a set of clean plates in front of us. For me the Lamb Tikka was cooked just right to the point of virtually melting in your mouth and the Balti sauce was full of flavour without any over-powering chilli powder added to it. Nicole was very complimentary of her Sag Paneer, although she did think the Birmingham restaurants cooked it slightly differently, as it did have a different texture to it. A very pleasant dish, just different. Dan and Ethne didn't complain, so can only assume the Pasander met with their approval.

I commented to the waiter that we should perhaps have mentioned that we were from Birmingham, as you only get a decent Balti in Brum, although I did add that the Lamb Tikka Balti was one of the best I've had. He laughed and told us that the chefs were originally from Birmingham, so it wasn't too surprising they got it just right. The staff made us feel very welcome thoughout the meal, having a run-in joke with the kids, and were happy to chat and let us take our time with the meal. The restaurant wasn't packed, although it was early evening so I expect their main business would have been later in the evening, but there was a constant stream of customers and it seemed a very popular choice for locals too, which is always a good sign.

We don't know where we will be going on holiday for 2009, but if we do head back to Torquay, I expect to be visiting The Balti Garden again. They even gave us a business card which allows us a 10% discount on our next visit, so it would be a shame to not take advantage of it ;)

Having eaten at The Balti Garden, I now understand why they were the only Indian restaurant in the Torquay area to get a review. It is one of the best Indian restaurants I've ever eaten in throughout the UK, never mind the Torquay area. So if you happen across this review while searching for Indian restaurants in the Torquay area, you would do well to head straight to The Balti Garden and give your taste buds the chance to experience some wonderful culinary delights.

File Under: food / review / torquay

Caught Somewhere In Time

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Five: The holiday was coming to an end, but there was still far too much to see. We opted for Kents Caverns and Bygones Victorian Museum.

Kents Caverns was actually Nicole's favourite sight of the whole holiday. There is so much history there it really is quite staggering. Dave, our guide, was brilliant. A great sense of humour and a good rapport with his audience made for an excellent tour. At the end of the tour I asked him if he was studying archeology, but it seems not, he's a Sociology student :) The Caverns themselves are huge and very impressive. It was a shame that my camera work wasn't up to much as there were points when I failed to capture some of the awesomeness of the rock formations and patterns. The light in the caverns is all artificial, and at one point in the tour, the lights are switched off to show how dark it really is. It's probably the first time I've ever been in complete pitch darkness and you really can't see anything in front of your face, even a few millimetres away.

After coming out we discovered that due to the weather, the Caverns had become quite popular today. It seems we had arrived at just about the right time. They also have a kids discovery area, which both DanDan and Ethne enjoy being archelogists and uncovering fossils. They they got to draw on the chalk boards.

After lunch we headed back to Babbacombe and to the Bygones Victorian Museum. We had passed the museum earlier in the week and it looked like it was worth a visit. It's quite amazing just how much they have crammed into the building. They even have a small full size engine, which you get to walk onto the footplate. Although it is very much centred on the Victorian era, it does also feature a small section on the World War I. DanDan was a bit too unnerved by it, but Ethne didn't bat an eyelid. It is probably the only part of the museum that is potentially frightening for kids, as it is quite dark. It's quite amazing just how much memorabillia they have managed to accummulate or recreate about the era. However, I think DanDan and I would have to agree the traditional cream soda was the defining moment of the visit :)

File Under: caverns / devon / family / holiday / museum / photography / torquay

Another Journey By Train

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Four: Like my Dad, or more likely because of my Dad, I've liked steam trains from a young age. My grandparents had the Gwili Railway at the bottom of the garden from 198?, and as I was growing up from about the age of 8 I had watched them clear the old track, lay new ones and construct the station and line from Bronwydd Arms. I also got to ride on it while they were making it too. Since then, riding on steam trains has always been fun. In Torquay we had a choice. The Paignton and Dartmouth Steam Railway or The South Devon Railway (running steam trains from Totnes to Buckfastleigh). We opted for the latter.

I had mistakenly thought that there was a train connection between Paignton and Totnes and thought getting a train from Torquay would be a good idea. The train station was only a few minutes walk from the hotel, but after buying the tickets and looking at the map on the wall, I suddenly realised my mistake. In order to get to Totnes we had to go back up the line to Newton Abbot and then down again to Totnes. Had I realised this I would have driven there in about 20 minutes. As it was it took 2 hours with all the waiting and connections and delays. It was frustrating as I felt we had lost half a day, but as Nicole pointed out, the kids enjoyed it and Ethne did keep us entertained with her dancing and singing on the platform.

We just made it to the train for The South Devon Railway, otherwise we would have had to wait around 45 minutes for the next one. Although there were other things we could have done at the Totnes station, most of the things to see were at the Buckfastleigh station. The journey was lovely and once again the kids really enjoyed watching the scenery fly by. A brief stop at Staverton station was a good photo opportunity too.

Once we finally reach Buckfastleigh, we had a wander around part of the museum there. We then took an old double-decker red london bus to Buckfast Abbey. It's been a while since I was here last, and it's actually smaller than I remembered. Thankfully the sun was just right and I was really please with some of the pictures I got to take. We had a wander around the Abbey itself and the gardens, and had a lot of fun trying to pose DanDan and Ethne. It didn't always work, but it was great fun trying :)

We took the bus back again, this time through Buckfastleigh village, where we could eaisly reached out of the bus and touched the walls of the buildings. The last steam train for the day was just about to arrive, so while they took the time to change ends, we wander further around the site and got to look in the repair sheds. Unfortunately the minature railway wasn't working as I would have liked to have taken the kids on that. It was probably just as well as by the time we got back to the platform, the train was just about to leave. After reaching Totnes station we walked back to the mainline station. It was then that I'd noticed that there were sigs for the castle. We hadn't eaten and it was getting towards tea time, so it seemed a good idea to find a cafe somewhere. I managed to persuade Nicole that walking up the hill to the castle would be a good idea. Unfortunately when we got to the entrance, although we had an hour left to wander around, it was perhaps a little too expensive for just an hour, especially for 4 of us. We decided that it would be better to plan to come another time and take more time wandering around. In fact we'd missed a few things at each end of The South Devon Railway, so a return trip is definitely on the cards.

The return trip on the mainline was less eventful, but it was nice to just relax and let someone else take me where we were going :)

File Under: abbey / buckfast / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay / totnes / trains

The Beach

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Three: Our first proper day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach and Babbacombe are on the far side of Torquay, so we had to drive there. However, in the write up for the hotel, it mentioned we were only 5 minutes from the beach. Each time we had passed Abbey Sands Beach in the car, the tide had been in and it hadn't looked like it was very big. However, in the morning we took a stroll down, passing the Torre Abbey, and watched the tide slowly drift out. A portion of the beach was already uncovered and we set up camp. As the day wore on more and more of the beach revealed itself and it really was a good beach. Apparently the sand on this beach is considered to be the best in Torquay for making sand castles. We all spent time digging holes, burying each other, buidling sand castles and generally have a lovely time. It was such a good day we complete forgot to take photos after the first few in the morning!

Nicole and I did make one mistake though. We covered the kids in sun lotion and sun block to protect them from the sun, but complete forgot to do the same for ourselves. I managed to burn my feet, my knees and my forehead didn't look too great. Thankfully it wasn't too bad and after a trip to a local supermarket we did rubbed in some of the after-sun lotion to soothe the itchiness.

As we were on holiday we had decided to eat out somewhere nice. Being a fan of curries I manage to persuade everyone that the ? was a great idea. And indeed it was. The kids shared a korma and both Nicole and I were absolutely stuffed after ours. Although DanDan had been complaining earlier about his neck and he didn't eat too much. We got a bit worried and got him some medicine to help relieve some of the pain. The night before DanDan had fallen out of bed and woken up in a very confused state, so we weren't sure whether he hurt himself as he fell out. It wasn't until the following day that Nicole suddenly realised why he was complaining of his neck. The TV in the room was mounted quite high and he'd been straining his neck trying to watch it! After a good night's sleep he seemed to be much better.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / photography / torquay

Back In The Village

Posted on 26th August 2007

Day Two: The following day we headed to Babbacombe and in particular The Model Village. I've always liked model villages, but Nicole has mostly tolerated them. We took the kids to see the one at Bekonscot last year (I'll have to get around to putting those pictures online too), and they seemed to enjoy it. Babbacombe seems to be bigger than Bekonscot, but that may just have been perception. There certainly seems to be a lot more going on, not just for the model village, but also the "behind the scenes" workshop, the model film sets, the model circus, trainset and the 4D cinema experience. Many of the models are moving models, from lorrys, trams and trains to fire breathing dragons, the Loch Ness monster and a wind farm. The 4D cinema had a 15 minute film showing, which in addition to the 3D presentation also had the physical experience of things like the chair shaking or fine water droplets sprayed at you. I thought it was well worth the £1 entrance fee, but DanDan was quite scared. He held my hand in a vice like grip on several occasions. I tried to make light of it for him, but he kept taking the 3D glasses off so he couldn't see the images so close to him.

After lunch we headed round the corner towards the local beach. To get there we had to ride on the Cliff Railway. Both DanDan and Ethne loved it, as they both got to sit at the front and watch the other carriage come up and pass us as we went down. Once off we got to spend our first day on the beach. Oddicombe Beach has more shale than sand, so it wasn't exactly sand castle material, but we did try. Ethne experience her first paddle in the sea and kept wanting to go back for more. It was a hard job persuading them to come out and dry off at the end of the afternoon. We managed it by tempting them with ice cream ;) In fact it was delicious ice cream, and I'm not really one for buying a cone. I prefer iced lollies. But the choices on offer were just too tempting.

We walked back to the Cliff Railway and rode back up to the top. There is a nice little cafe at the top, and being shattered we decided to have tea there. I'm glad we did as by the time we got back to the hotel, all I wanted to do was flake out. The weather reports promised much better weather for the rest of the week, so tomorrow was looking good.

File Under: beach / devon / family / holiday / model / photography / torquay / trains

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