Mother’s Day goes vegan at poetry-inspiring wrap stop

REVIEW: Eggelicious (E2), 3 Wood Street, Swindon, SN1 4AN

Rating: ★★★★★

Mother’s Day special. The vegan Poppadom Crunch was added to the menu ahead of the day

Morning prep is underway as I arrive at Swindon’s favourite toasted wrap joint, with ingredients red, green and yellow being gently sliced and heated behind the counter.

Pulling up a stool at the slender counter, I have a front-row view of the open kitchen where owner Ash has full pans of spinach and lamb on the hob. The Asian influence is much in evidence with coriander, dill and ginger among the herbs and spices I can discern.

Eggelicious has the mantra ‘slow food fast’, and it’s this careful prep work that gives the toasted bundles the wholesome pep that have put the name on the map.

E2, so-called because it was the second outlet in the stable, even has its own laminated ode floating around the counter. Written by a loyal customer, the homage praises the pan-Asian food and owners to the hilt. With no shortage of fans, it’s fair to say the independent, family-run business has reached something approaching cult eating status within the borders of Swindon. A street food feel is combined with Ash’s solid knowledge of food science, a combination that appeals to the gym bunnies, workers on the go and footballers who flock through the doors.

Starting life in the former Tented Market, which has since been mothballed awaiting development, the wrap stop expanded to E2 in the heart of the borough’s Old Town and most recently to The Crossing, a food court in the Brunel shopping centre.

The two existing branches stay true to the open kitchen approach, the orders being made from basic ingredients under the customers’ eyes. Innovation has played a part, too. A few days before Mother’s Day, Ash has added two themed wraps, one being a meat option comprising chicken in saffron, orange and tarragon spices.

It’s a tempting-sounding fusion but also an insight into what makes Eggelicious tick.

The former food chemist chose saffron because of its use throughout Europe and the Middle East and to recognise the formative cooking influences of his mother.

Eggelicious- slow food fast 

Keeping an eye on the hob and a couple of brews he readies on the counter, Ash tells me how egg coriander on roti used to be her equivalent of beans on toast.

Unhurried the prep work may be, it only takes minutes to conjure up the Mother’s Day vegan option, the intriguingly-titled Poppadum Crunch.

I take up the option of a light sprinkle of chili over the spinach, potato and crushed poppadom.

Chef Texanita Dias with the wrap
Chef Texanita Dias with the vegan wrap made created by the food stop in Swindon’s Old Town

Based on Ash’s home meals, it’s a barnstorming fusion of perfectly-judged flavours and textures. The soft vegetables and spices complement and enhance each other in the tightly-packed and filling square gracing the counter. Season-round wraps that jump from the menu include a chicken, pea and halloumi affair and my ‘usual’, which combines most or all of spinach, paneer, potato and chickpeas.

Specials chalked up on a blackboard include the Thai lemon, lime and pepper marinated chicken. Customers can also build their own wraps, with fillings such as eggs, masala chickpeas, halloumi, sweet potato mix and chorizo added to meat or fish or combining on their own to make a vegan or vegetarian bundle. Tapas and plated specials give another dimension to the menu.

Vegetarian and vegan options are available in spades and it’s worth noting that Eggelicious was way ahead of the current curve for meat and animal product-free dining. Just ask the former Tented Market crowd.

With its warmly embracing spice, soft crunch and tender potatoes, my wrap is a surprisingly slow eat that leaves me feeling nourished. In fact, I take half back to the office with me for later consumption. It’s another reason why I will remain a regular at what is, for my money, the most vege-licious counter in town.

By Yunzy


Yorkshire cheer warms the hands and spirits on the frosty dales

TRAVEL: Arkengarthdale in the North Yorkshire Dales 

Yorkshire signpost

The biting wind feels like it’s whipping through our bones as we shiver on an icy ridgeline on the North Yorkshire Dales.

Fortunately, the scene of magnificent desolation is only 100 metres from the nearest pub.

Pausing on the snow-dappled moors, the wind chill feels like something we would imagine from a Hollywood treatment of an Everest expedition.

So we’re relieved to tumble through the doors of the Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England at 1,732ft above sea level. If it sounds extreme the retreat has a tractor-mounted plough and track vehicle parked outside, while the mulled cider is worth its weight in fermented apples.

Outside the pub Tan Hill
Frosty moors and shifting skies. The scene outside England’s highest pub 


Revellers seeing in 2009 ended up being snowed in for three days, and we kept a beady eye on the conditions outside. On the Yorkshire Moors a friendly welcome is never far away, even when the undulating quilts of moss, grass and snow seem to stretch forever, in every direction.

Walking through winding, tea packet Yorkshire lanes passing over brooks by fields inhabited by the occasional gaggle of sheep, there’s always somewhere to duck in from the cold.

On the first day of our one-night stopover we found no shortage of northern hygge at the Charles Bathurst Inn, an authentic, tasteful and thoughtfully-appointed retreat in winding Arkengarthdale.

Given the snow blizzards intermittently swirling outside and the numbing cold, we made the most of the award-winning Yorkshire hospitality in the barely-stirring parish of Richmond.

Tucked away on the side of a valley, the hostelry is never short of a cheerful crowd making the most of the exceptional food and drink produced in-house on a seasonal basis.

CB Inn cars
Classic cars are at home outside the warm and welcoming Charles Bathurst Inn


CB Outside Closeup
The winding valley in Arkengarthdale is a former lead mining area ideal for walking

Members of the Royal family are known to have wandered in for evening refreshments while out shooting grouse in hunting season, and we found it a princely fit for our break.

Other pursuits within easy reach include mountain biking and tours of the dales, with car and art clubs among the numerous groups gathering at the 18th Century inn.

Having succumbed to our frosty ridgeline walk and a separate foray trying to climb a deceptively tricky escarpment which first appeared about 500 metres from where we were parked, we checked in and planned for more gentle distractions on our second day.

Yorkshire scene
The expansive moorland on the doorstep of the Charles Bathurst Inn

Our exertions on the frosty moors were replenished at a candle-lit corner table adorned with snowdrops where I dined on a superlative seabass fillet, the seared steaks crossed over a bed of ocean-fresh seafood with sundried tomato and tagliatelle and lemon oil.

My partner had a slow-braised, rolled belly of pork, accompanied by a finely-mashed bubble and squeak cake and red cabbage. We’d chosen a nibbles board for our starter, the bread and hummus, both made on the premises, accompanied by marinated green and black olives, and it stayed on as a side.

A sticky toffee pudding with custard proved a knockout finale, the spongy brown square on my white plate being smothered in a rich and deeply embracing sauce.


Brim full of rustic character, the guest house, which is known as the CB Inn to locals, has a coveted Rosette and four silver stars from the AA for its excellent standards.

In the morning, we awoke to bird song in the fields outside one of our windows and breakfasted on divine Wensleydale scrambled eggs wrapped in smoked salmon.

Suitably thawed, we packed in a quick walk along the empty lane outside in what was once a lead mining area, batting up the moss embankments to enjoy the views.

Knockout sticky toffee
A knockout sticky toffee pudding capped a fine meal at the Inn

Nature featured on our second stop as we took a short drive to go red squirrel spotting at Snaizeholme, just outside the market town of Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

With only around 15,000 of the creatures left in England, the woodland sanctuary is one of the few places they can be seen going about their lives in the wild.

A proper Yorkshire welcome at the Charles Bathurst Inn 

The refuge only came out by chance more than 40 years ago when a family who took over a farm noticed the reds were attracted to Christmas trees they had planted.

Snaizeholme is now one of 14 such refuges in northern England, regarded as the ‘front line’ between the survivors and grey squirrels, which measure up twice as large.

Before heading south, we passed under the battlements of Barnard Castle, a rising fortress that made an imposing scene above the fast-flowing River Tees.

Taking its name from its 12th Century founder, Bernard de Balliol, the fortifications are in a delightful market town with no end of quirky tea shops and pubs.

Barnard Castle GV
Barnard Castle is an imposing presence overlooking the Tees Gorge 

The visitor attraction was closed on the Monday we visited but we got a good impression of the strategic position as we strolled on a pathway underneath.

A sensory garden of scented plants and tactile objects, views over the Tees Gorge and Richard III’s boar emblem carved above the inner ward are among the reasons we will return.

Reluctantly setting TomTom for home, we reflect on a slice of England that changes drastically with the seasons. Icy conditions will soon make way for the kind of sun-blessed scenes that were opened up to the nation through the overhead television shots of the 2014 Tour De France’s ‘grand depart’ in Yorkshire. Whether rain, shine or icy pub walk, we’ll be back on the trail soon.

By Yunzy

A most respectable arsonist; how Emma Jeffcoat let the maid take the blame.

An unlikely-looking arsonist featured in an Edwardian archive of known criminals piqued the interest of history writer Martin Kenny. Through his research, he pieced together a story involving a maid being framed for setting fire to bed sheets in a reverend’s house. All the while, the real culprit maintained an air of respectability.


Sometimes we incorrectly judge people based on first impressions.

Sitting in the reading room of the Warwick Records Office everything seemed to fall into place as I pieced together the evidence. Glancing at the book of ‘known criminals’ the face of Emma Jeffcoat stood out from the other images on the page.

Wearing a boater hat and Edwardian blouse, Jeffcoat looked distracted with a perplexed yet slightly pensive expression. Underneath her photograph was the word ARSON and the date of her conviction on 20th July, 1906. Having written some articles on the suffragette movement, I was aware of a campaign that involved setting fire to buildings which commenced in the spring of 1906. I had therefore formed an opinion based on first impressions which would prove to be totally inaccurate.

However, the truth was more amazing than any work of fiction.

Checking the microfiche records of Assizes trials I was able to establish that Jeffcoat was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour for “feloniously setting fire to certain articles of furniture being in the dwelling house of John Halifax Bates”.

Edward VII
The pardon was signed by King Edward VII after the truth emerged. Pic:

The crime was committed on 18th June, 1906 at Kenilworth with court proceedings being held at Milverton Petty Sessions. Using the database of Leamington Courier I was able to establish the events that led to the imprisonment of Jeffcoat.

The story starts in 1905 when a young housemaid named Agnes Wass was convicted of setting bed clothing on fire whilst in the service of the Reverend Frederick Sadgrove of Winston Rectory near Darlington. On the evidence of another member of house staff, who happened to be Emma Jeffcoat, the judge found Agnes guilty of committing wilful damage not exceeding £5. However, the real culprit would only be discovered when the reverend’s daughter, Miss Sadgrove, alerted police to the miscarriage of justice having doubts about the conviction the following year.

Having heard about a similar fire at Kenilworth where Jeffcoat was now in the service of Mr Bates of White Thorn House, Miss Sadgrove made the journey to Warwick to clear the name of Agnes Wass. Following the intervention of the Reverend’s daughter, a formal pardon was issued to Wass signed by the King and countersigned by the Home Secretary Herbert Gladstone.

Over a century later is it possible to provide further information about the individuals and families involved using census returns. In the 1891 census Agnes is listed as a six- year-old and is being cared for by her grandparents. By the 1901 census she is identified as a 15-year-old servant at Stockton on Tees near Durham. In the 1901 census Jeffcoat is a nurse at Warneford Hospital in Leamington and is living at Covent Gardens in the town with her husband Tom and his parents also named as Emma and Tom. John and Eleanor Bates are living at White Thorn in Kenilworth in both the 1901 and 1911 census with their household including domestic staff. However in 1915 tragedy would strike the family with the death of  their son in the First World War. Lieutenant Harold Bates was killed in action at Nord in France and is commemorated on the First World War memorial in Abbey Fields in Kenilworth.

The introduction of new web based ancestry sites has undoubtedly increased the access to archive material and given new opportunities for research.

However, there is one factor that remains unchanged when reading the book of known criminals and that is judgement. Over a century ago Agnes Wass suffered being convicted of a crime she did not commit based on the judgement of a court and the word of an unreliable witness. When studying archive material it can be difficult to judge where your research will lead.


Meat gets the chop as vegan green shoots delight the senses


waga menu crop

REVIEW: Wagamama, 95 Parade, Leamington Spa, CV32 4AY

Rating: ★★★★★

In surroundings of byegone grandeur, Wagamama is making a bold pitch for a new wave of diners who like their animals still roaming the earth.
Navigating the timber-panelled revolving doors and resisting the pull of a cacophonous square bar in the lobby, we perched on a bench under an encased  chandelier.
The Japanese-inspired restaurant chain’s first ever dedicated vegan and vegetarian menu is all  green shoots, laid out without the need for animal ingredients or capital letters.
Casting eyes down under the table-top strip lighting, we took time to choose from the award-winning quest to prove that meat and animal products are so last year.
We lingered only because the likes of bang bang wok-fried cauliflower, shichimi-coated silken tofu and rice noodles garnished with pickled ginger sprang off the card.
Brown beans and lentils used to sell from upright plastic tubs at The Other Branch bookshop around the corner, an alternative retailer in Cold War times when vegan was a fairly radical concept.
What arrived at our table was a feast for the senses.
I plunged chopsticks into a steaming yasai itame, a rustled oriental market place of spongy, velvety tofu, field-green spring onion leaves, stir-fried beansprouts, bok choi, peppers, mushroom and chilli.
Sunken tentacles of pale rice noodles added consistency to the pot.
A deceptively thin green coconut and lemongrass soup had a deeply embracing, peppery afterglow that had me wading in with the wooden soup ladel long after the sticks had passed their usefulness.
Steaming delights: The vegan yasai itame was a rustled marvel
My partner set her taste buds to Lonely Planet mode to explore the yasai samla curry, a freshly-fired blend of earthy yellow lemongrass and coconut encompassing hunks of silky tofu and saggy baby red tomatoes.
Peppers and shittake mushrooms were notable more by taste in the dish, which came with a separate serving of white rice.
Chopping boards must take a hammering in the restaurant, but every component in the mains retained its zip amid a holistic whole.
The regularly updated menu waves sayonara to the days of the (v) or (vg) denoting the few alternatives to the meaty headliners.
The yasai samla curry is another of the dishes on the new vegan menu
Sides of steamed edamame beans with chilli garlic salt and vegetable steamed dumplings filled with the customary dipping sauce added to our burgeoning hotchpotch.
There was just about room for an electric-orange coloured raw juice begging a wistful swirl and a bitty blueberry spice.
Once we’d mixed and matched tender noodles, chopped veg and delicate tofu, meat was a distant memory, as were eggs, dairy products and sundry other animal-derived ingredients.
Still piqued after the plentiful servings, we gave the desserts a try.
Straying onto the vegetarian menu, we sweetened the meal with a banana katsu, a gently deteriorating piece of fruit in crispy panko breadcrumbs, sesame seeds and a chilli toffee and ginger sauce.
In the end, however, it was a vegan treat that won home.
Three carnation pink dollops of guava and passion fruit sorbet with fresh mint made a cleansing and soft-hitting end to the vegan induction.
More about Wagamama here
By Yunzy

Latest contender in battle of the coffee shops is worth a sip

REVIEW: Second Cup, 78 Warwick Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 4XT

Rating: ★★★

second cup

A colossus of hot beverages doth bestride Leamington Spa.

In a town already ridiculously over-populated with coffee shops, Second Cup has planted a pyramid in the slabs. Half a dozen of those pokey London chains would fit in here, with room left for a pistachio latte-making workshop. Furniture worthy of a hipster’s summer house and window booths make the most of the glass-fronted layout, converted by the Canadian chain in what must have been a costly retail makeover.

As I fumbled with a complicated order for two adults and three children, the young server fixed me with a look somewhere between bemused patience and a 1,000-yard-stare. Tissues on the floor in the prep area behind her suggested it had been a Saturday afternoon of peak footfall. Piqued by the loose leaf teas adorning the counter, I ordered an orange blossom and an Indian chai for my friend, the other (on this day) responsible adult in the group. Second Cup has a slew of grandly-titled coffees, such as the Paradiso (Medium) Signature Balanced Blend and the dark roast Espresso Forte, probably best at an earlier hour.

Flavoured coffees add a hint of extravagance and there’s a nod to Kenya and Tanzania in the limited edition blends, with an ethical riff in the marketeers’ blackboard. The temptations cabinet had been almost cleaned out, but we ordered a brownie and a lemon cake, both gluten free, and a chocolate muffin, from the remains of the day. Two glasses of milk and a small dark hot chocolate took the bill to £20.83. Upstairs, this coffee shop Goliath comes into its own, with toasty heating, chic hanging ceiling lamps and a fake LED flame giving it some hygge.

Planting ourselves on sofas either side of a low table, we cleared the previous incumbents’ tea party, flung the shopping down and spread out. The loose leaf infusion came with the dried bits floating in a tea-iere and had zip, body and flavour. Cake distractions had a modest sweet-ness and were softly textured. Second Cup does not provide some of the thoughtful extras you get elsewhere, and we had to ask for free tap water. Milk came at a premium, costing £3.98 for two glasses. Couches like these are worth their weight in Arabica beans, however.

Somewhat disconcertingly, a rather weary looking member of staff ventured upstairs and cast a disinterested look round the uncleared tables, but overall the joint was clean and uncluttered. Having made friends with three students attired to the tune of ‘high street Corbyn’, we whiled away the rest of our tea break talking grime, the University of Warwick and multi-media film projects.

However saturated Leamington town centre may be, Second Cup has brought something different to the coffee shop mix, though needs to pull it together a bit on long afternoons.

By Yunzy

Second Cup Coffee Co. Making spirits bright

A most inglorious revolution. Coughton Court and the fall of the churches.

As Bonfire Night recedes a lesser-known date in the calendar approaches that also combines gunpowder, religious persecution and darkest plot. The so-called Glorious Revolution left its mark in the dismembered remains of a Catholic chapel at Coughton Court, an ancestral home now run by the National Trust. How a Protestant mob reduced the shrine to ruins on a day of fire remains a curiously unpicked facet of Warwickshire’s past. A short fictional account, adapted from a longer history essay, imagines how events might have unfolded. 

Coughton image 3
No sanctuary for the papists. Coughton Court in Warwickshire. Picture: National Trust

18 December 1688

83 years after the Gunpowder Plot

A day of ruin

An encroaching thud of hooves sounded the cloaked figure’s arrival at the gatehouse. The horse exhaled puffy clouds from its nostrils in the sharp evening air.

Ralph Sheldon, Sheriff of Warwickshire, looked down from his mount.

“You have but an hour, hide the treasure, take refuge while you can.”

William Thomas, Coughton Court’s gatekeeper, gazed back, expressionless.

“The king has fled and in his wake the mobs hunt papists,” Sheldon continued.

The looming presence left in a gallop of shadows. William hurried back through the Tudor gatehouse. In the courtyard the Throckmorton family’s household staff ferried ceremonial crosses, vestments and oil paintings to various nooks and crannies.

A weasely-looking cook struggled with an unsheathed longsword, an heirloom once bloodied at the Battle of Edgehill before being presented to the lord of the manor, Sir Robert Throckmorton.

The protestant mob’s lanterns and torches were by now trickling onto the skulking lanes leading to the manor from Alcester. Some two hundred men and women, united in contrived menace.

The narrow turrets of Coughton’s tower, built to spy danger, gave the best view of this procession in the county. Except no-one was inside. The Earl of Northampton was first to the gatehouse. His felted cap obscuring his eyes, he barely scanned the archway.

“Open the gate, I command you,” he shouted.

Only the black head of his horse moved before he repeated the order.

“In the name of Prince William of Orange I command you!”

Dismounting and drawing his arquebus, he shaped to blow the gateway’s oak-panelled door off its hinges. Coughton Court was an ancestral home, not a castle.

On the other side William opened the door a slither.

No sooner had he done so than the first of the wrecking crew tumbled through, knocking him to the ground. As the mob poured in, torches brushing sparks against the door frame, an elder in the courtyard cried, “It’s a holy…” before a wooden cosh swung from some unseen arm, rendering him unconscious.

Carving their way across the courtyard to the chapel, the first waves of destruction jolted those barricaded in the unlit house on the other side of the quadrangle. A brass candle holder was upturned and used to smash through anything that stood. The pews were upturned and used as a battering ram, ploughing into the altar under the soft dome.

The thunderous destruction shook a lady from a neighbouring Catholic family as she watched through a slice in the curtains from an upstairs window in the house opposite, the moonlight and flames competing to light her face. Below, on the ground floor, a muscular antique chest and other furniture barricaded the main doors.

Among the cold, apprehensive guarding party were several distant relatives of the Lord of the Manor, the estate’s gamekeeper Henry Joseph and the head of the household staff.

As the intruders sent a torn pew through a stained glass window, a specially-commissioned depiction of St Flora, patron of the abandoned, it shot splinters over the vandals, and tightened Henry’s grip on one of the few rifles in the house.

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The heir’s birth led to high drama at St James’s Palace. Pic: Camerawalker/Wikimedia Commons

The Queen’s bedchamber

St James’s Palace

 A birth draws cannon

The sound of a newborn’s tentative cries floated across the grandly-appointed royal bedroom. In the four-poster bed, embroidered with rich veins of colour running across the silk covers, Mary of Modena cradled the infant in her arms.

Elizabeth Wells, A trusted maid administering the nominal future King of England, cooed for a moment, gathered a bundle of towels from the bedside, then left.

No words were spoken.

Mary’s gaze remained fixed on James Francis Edward. Having shut the door, the servant froze and wept, her face tightened in knots of apprehension.

King James II sat in a dusty annex to the meeting chamber, blood from his nose dropping onto a parchment.

I, King James, hereby announce….” But there the ink stopped.

Richard Loxely, a wizened advisor, stood, casting his gaze out of a lattice window.

“The people will not accept a Catholic heir, we will find ourselves hunted in our kingdom,” he remarked. Another drop of blood splashed onto the parchment.

“I will not be decried for my faith,” the king hammered back. “You would have me run out of my own kingdom like the quarry in some daemonic shoot.”

The king began again. “I, King James II, King of England and Ireland, and Mary of Modena, hereby announce…” As he wrote, Loxely eyed plumes of black smoke drifting upwards from popish buildings in the city.

To be continued

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