Kitchen Gadgets: The budget edition

Before we get started today, just another reminder for the Florence Finds Afternoon tea in London and Manchester – full details can be found here and I really need your invite requests and payments before the weekend so I can confirm numbers – there is still space so get in touch!

This morning we have a guest post from Esme (who recommended Mr Underhills House a while back) that grabbed my attention pretty quickly when I received it. My kitchen is bursting with kitchen paraphernalia, from an obscenely large collection of occasional dishes to coffee grinders and blenders. I’m always on the look out for something to make life easier but this post got me thinking, what would you recommend in your kitchen? Here are Esme’s top tips…

It’s fair to say that in my family, the kitchen is the most important room of the house. It’s where we spend most of our time, where our friends congregate, where problems are discussed and jokes shared over dinner, drinks, nibbles and tea and cake (not at the same time, you understand). It’s also where an embarrassingly large proportion of our money goes. You see, our kitchen cupboards are FULL of equipment, gadgets, serving bowls, things for measuring and stuff for cooking. When we were planning our wedding, we always knew that we would have an old-fashioned wedding list of things for our home (mainly the kitchen…) because that was what we wanted and we honestly do use it all, frequently (ok, my husband does have a drawer full of random cooking-related paraphernalia that he swears he cannot do without but I bet he has never used).

All of this, I think, makes me more than qualified to recommend just a few kitchen items that I think are incredibly useful, worth the cost and will look lovely in your kitchen.

Alessi Storage Jar (12.50)
You would think it would be easy enough to find a storage jar for coffee that will go in the fridge. Well let me tell you that it is actually not that easy, as I had been looking for one for years! It had to be big enough to store sufficient ground coffee – we buy Fair Trade beans and grind it ourselves every few weeks – have a good seal to keep it fresh, not contain any metal and look nice. The Alessi jar fulfils all of my criteria, as well as being able to go in the dishwasher, is not easily breakable as it’s acrylic rather than glass and comes in lots of different colours to match other items in your kitchen. I love it and don’t think I will ever find a better jar for the job.

Microplane Grater (£23)
When our old Ikea grater finally gave up the ghost (you know the one, with the plastic tub and the two different lids?) and wasn’t so much grating cheese as just denting it and we realised that our rusty metal stand-up grater wasn’t exactly hygienic, I finally gave in to my husband’s requests to buy a seemingly ridiculously expensive Microplane grater. ‘It will change our lives’, he declared as I baulked at the £23 price tag, in comparison to £1.50 for a replacement for our Ikea one. So whilst our new grater doesn’t pay the gas bill and hasn’t fixed the condensation problem with our bedroom window, I have to admit that it’s really, really good. It’s super sharp (and will remain so for many years) making grating cheese, zesting lemons and making chocolate sprinkles effortless. All it needs is a quick rinse after using (watch your fingers!) and it’s not at all bulky. Trust me, you won’t believe how good this is until you try it.

Microwaveable Rice Cooker (£8)
We’ve used one of these for years and won’t make rice using anything else. Why would you when it takes much less effort and time than making it in a saucepan and always gives perfect results? We are such fans of this steamer (you can also use it for vegetables and fish) that several of our friends have received them as house-warming presents. Don’t say we’re not thoughtful…

Now it’s your turn. I’m dying to hear what you can think of in your kitchen that is under £25 and you wouldn’t be without… I’m looking forward to picking up some more tips!


Mr Underhill’s House, Ludlow.

In today’s Tuesday Travels we’re off to Ludlow with Esme, as she reviews the gastronomic delight that is Mr Underhill’s House. I know I’m always looking for places that are within reach and easy, (read: couple of hours drive for fantastic food and a cosy bed, for a weekend of relaxation with no stress) so I’ll certainly be bookmarking this one for future jaunts. Foodies amongst you will also be enthralled by the restaurant review…

The best thing about Mr Underhill’s House in Ludlow is the food. That is why people come here, why they come back year after year and why it is very hard to get a table, never mind a room there. Luckily for me and my husband, I booked our two night stay several months in advance because it was the hotel that we stayed in for our pseudo-moon, straight after our wedding this August. And boy was I glad that I had, because it was absolutely amazing.

Mr Underhill’s is a self-confessed ‘restaurant with rooms’. What they mean by this is that this is a Michelin star holding, award-winning restaurant that is the main focus of the business and because the restaurant is in such a beautiful location, they expanded to have a few hotel rooms too. What a good idea!

The rooms are really, really good. They are full of antique furniture, comfy beds and pretty local art. Our bathroom was small but the bath was big enough for two (it was the day after we got married – what?!) and was well stocked with own brand miniature organic products so good that I am seriously considering staying there again just for the conditioner. We were greeted with a cafetiere of freshly ground coffee and homemade shortbread biscuits and were sent on our way with bottles of local water and more shortbread (plus a full-size bottle of their hand wash and hand cream because I said how much I loved them) – lovely touches that made us fall even further in love with Mr Underhill’s.

Before I get to the dinner – the bit I know you’re all waiting for – I’ll just quickly say that it’s going to be a long time before a hotel beats the breakfast we had on our first morning. A quick phone call before bed the evening before resulted in a quiet knock on our door at 10.30 am, and a large tray filled with coffee, local apple juice, fresh brioche with homemade berry compote and the only muesli my husband has ever liked for us to enjoy in bed whilst we read our wedding cards. Perfect.

It is a bit of an understatement to say that my hubby and I enjoy our food: we have had some great meals in our time, and this was our second Michelin starred experience (I know! Aren’t we lucky? And the first one was also this year! And we didn’t even have to pay for that one!), so expectations were high. I think it was about 10 minutes in that we realised that this meal was going to be a whole new level of delicious.

The USP of Mr Underhill’s is that you don’t get to choose what you eat – they create a daily market menu of at least six courses (we had eight, not including two plates of petit fours) that is tailored to each group. When you call to book a table they ask you about dietary requirements and whether there’s anything you really don’t like (I can’t stand the herb dill and was seriously impressed that the dill marinated salmon on our menu had been replaced with an incredible shallot hummus just for me) and then, when you arrive, you are presented with your own menu. We were excited about this concept because it means that you get something a bit different that you will like and that the chef has designed to make the most of what’s good to eat on that day. You get to choose your pudding and can add an extra cheese course, but otherwise everyone is eating the same thing.

I’m not going to detail the whole meal (partly because I want you to go and experience it for yourself and partly because I am already majorly salivating over my keyboard) but here are some of the highlights:
The Sorrel veloute – I actually licked my bowl.
The fish course: bream with crunchy veg. The most delicious thing I have ever put in my mouth – fact.
My choice of pudding: beetroot fondant with carrot ice-cream, pea foam and black pepper caramel. Pretty darn incredible.
Our waiter reciting the names and descriptions of ten cheeses flawlessly. These guys knew their stuff.

Now, it was not a cheap evening but I would not hesitate to say that it was good value (our bill came to around £150 for two seven-course meals and three glasses of wine that had been matched to the food). A night – and holiday – we will never forget.

Thank you so much for sending this in Esme!

Have you been to Mr Underhill’s House? Got somewhere else you would like to recommend?

Send in your hotel reviews and destination guides to hello@florencefinds for the chance to share your finds with the Florence Finds community – I’d love to hear from you!



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