The last Saturday of the Navigation Point Christmas Events may not have been the busiest of the lot but those who attended had great fun.
Santa Claus handed out gifts to eager children while a few young members of the Northern School of Music provided a delightful rendition of the most popular Christmas carols.
Later, thanks to a windless evening, everyone present partook in the setting off of large Chinese lanterns. At one time, the skies above the Marina were filled with floating flickering lights.
The NSPCC Christmas Raffle is going great guns. All the Navigation Point businesses will be selling tickets until New Year's Eve. So far, our three restaurants alone have raised around £1200. Let's hope everyone else has had as much success as we have.
Best Christmas Wishes from Navigation Point...
The last Saturday of the Navigation Point Christmas Events may not have been the busiest of the lot but those who attended had great fun.
A very simple and quick dish.
1lb. fresh smoked haddock cut into chunks
1 onion, finely sliced
1 carrot, julienne
1 handful of green beans cut into tiny bits or 1 handful of peas.
1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1tbsp chopped parsley
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped.
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 pint tomato passata
1/2 pint water
1/2 Basmati rice
Fry the onion until soft.
Add the rice and turmeric and fry for 2 minutes
Add the rest of the vegetables.
Add the tomato and water.
Cook for 15 minutes then place the haddock carefully on top of the rice.
Simmer until the rice is cooked but still al dente.
Serve with a wedge of lemon
Despite the extreme cold, the second of Navigation Point Christmas Events saw the lighting of Chinese lanterns from the Marina office and more kids visiting Santa's Grotto.
The first one of Navigation Point's Christmas Events went off with a bang.
At 5.30 Santa arrived on the Marina boat Adventure and followed by two elves he proceeded to his grotto situated in the car park next to a 30ft Christmas tree kindly donated by Mandale Properties.
Under the sound of festive tunes provided by Daniel Brobbel, an orderly queue of thirty to forty children formed in front of the Grotto. For £1 the children got to meet Santa and receive a present while the parents had their names entered in the NSPCC raffle organised by the Navigation Point Business Group, one of the prizes being a boat trip in the New Year.
The Mayor, Mr. Stuart Drummond arrived at 6pm to switch on the Christmas tree lights to loud cheers from the attendance.
Boat rides, walk-on-water and a cup-and-saucer ride provided further entertainment.
Some of the restaurants and bars joined in the fun, by selling such things as banana fritters, mulled wine, mince pies, roast chestnuts and hot chocolate laced with brandy to warm up the visitors.
Each business has pledged a prize towards the NSPCC raffle and so far, over £400 has been raised.
It is certainly heartwarming to see that despite the snowy conditions and very adverse financial crisis, Navigation Point businesses are coming together to help the NSPCC as well promote Hartlepool Marina.
Saturday 11th between 5pm and 7pm there will be more of the same.
Friday, minus 13 degrees at 9.15 am. I cannot recall such a low temperature in Hartlepool.
And the snow keeps falling. The roads are treacherous. Traffic is moving at snail pace.
Although party numbers are dropping like snow flakes, the more adventurous of diners are not deterred by this ideal Christmas weather.
Let's just hope that they keep coming along those worrying crunchy paths...
The lights on the Christmas tree donated by the landlords, Mandale will be switched on by our Mayor, Stuart Drummond on Saturday 4th December.
Daniel Brobbel from Norteast Sound and Light has promised to provide music and lights for the event.
I discovered email marketing two years ago and have been using it ever since. Once a month, I send my e-newsletter to over 2000 customers and the list is growing by the day through sign-ups, quizzes, feedback forms, etc...
There are numerous online companies offering this facilities and the prices they charge vary widely. After a few months of research and comparison, I chose Constant Contact, a US company which delivers exactly what I require: tailor-made emails and clear statistics of how these work.
This enables me to design subsequent messages and advertise our restaurants as well as inform our customers/readers.
Email marketing is simply the natural progression of bulk mail marketing. While households are still bombarded by leaflet campaigns, most will now find their email accounts swamped by spam mail.
It is not a wonder that only a very small proportion of these unsolicited emails are ever read. Even targeted emails produce very low open and click rates. The diagram below shows the stats.
Having said all this, I believe that any restaurant company worth its salt (and pepper) has to "jump on the bandwagon" or be left in the dust.
Today, I attended the funeral of someone unforgettable.
When Karen and I opened Krimo's at Seaton Carew on May 4th 1985, I told her that if we got the same customers back within the first two months, we'd cracked it.
Alex Torrance dined with us five times in the first two weeks.
A Scottish bon-viveur who worked and later lived in Hartlepool, Alex knew a great deal about food, wine and good times. A true gentleman, a soft-spoken charmer, he came back countless times in the last twenty five years with family and friends.
When I opened Portofino in 1997, he was the first and only person who asked for an egg on his pizza. He even explained to me and the chef when to place the raw egg in the middle of the pizza so that it was just set when served.
Over the years, I have met many interesting characters who have been part of our saga. Alex was that kind of guy one can never forget.
Rest in peace, my friend.
The second Saturday of every month brings an exciting Farmers Market to Hartlepool.
It takes place on the Historic Quay car park. There are usually around twenty stalls selling meats, cheeses, cakes, fish, plants, honeys, jams, herbs and much more produce than I can remember.
I personally like this kind of market because it offers genuine produce one can no longer find in profit-driven supermarkets.
I must admit that I have seen a lot better markets both in the UK and Europe but with sustained local support, I believe that ours could grow and flourish into a permanent feature.
What a weekend!
Saturday to Tuesday.
Four days when Hartlepool revealed its beautiful face to the world.
The Tall Ships began slipping into the town as early as Thursday. A Spanish yacht called Hansa from Galicia, with whose crew I shared a few tapas and a beer.
The larger ones arrived between Thursday evening and Saturday lunchtime.
A huge tide of visitors descended on the Marina at around 11am on Saturday and kept on rolling past the berthed ships. The weather was clement to the point of being warm.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday brought even more visitors laden with cameras and zoom lenses.
All our staff worked very hard and long hours over the four days to cater for twice or three times our usual number of diners.
I enjoyed selling coffee, tea and Sangria outside Casa del Mar. It gave me the opportunity to do some "market research" by asking people where they came from, whether they liked Hartlepool and if they would come back again.
They were unanimous in their praise for our town. Most had never been here and were totally delighted with the facilities and the organization. Those who were re-visiting were pleased with the changes that had occurred over the last twenty years.
The regional visitors promised to come back very soon.
I was so busy that I did not manage to get my camera out so here is a Flickr Group set up to showcase the weekend.
The Tall Ships have begun arriving. Hartlepool is buzzing and we are getting busier by the minute.
What the visitors will discover or rediscover is a town proud of its maritime and historical heritage.
The Marina has led to its regeneration, and despite the recession, is attracting more and more visitors every year.
The Headland with its iconic St. Hilda's church is the real Hartlepool according to its residents. Many towns would dream of having a historical part as beautiful as the Headland.
33 days to go...7-10 August 2010.
It will be Hartlepool's biggest event ever.
Newcastle up the road, got over one million visitors in 2005 even though the city was only a stopover for the Tall Ships. Hartlepool is the final stage of the race. So one can imagine how many thousands of people will be visiting the town over that weekend.
If you're still in doubt as to whether this event is becoming a reality, check out the Countdown Clock on the official website.
World Cup Fever has suddenly hit Hartlepool and, as one of the few Algerian on Tees Valley, I find myself torn between supporting my country of birth and my adopted one.
England and Algeria meet this evening in Capetown. The forthcoming event has created a lot of interest among the local media. Yesterday, the Hartlepool Mail ran the story and intend being at Flix to report on the live action and ups-and-downs...
The Evening Gazette recounted my grandson's interjection when Algeria and England were drawn in the same group back in December.
"Grampa, you've lived here longer than in Algeria, so you should support England."
My answer was: "That's not how it works, Alex. "
Adam's Flix Movie Cafe will be packed this evening.
This morning we both appeaered on John Foster's show on BBC Radio Tees.
We may even appear on Tyne Tees Television on the local news this evening.
Go Algeria, Go!!
This was Hartlepool Marina last week. The temperatures soared to 25 degrees. Alfresco eating outside Casa del Mar. Kids from a local youth club enjoying themselves on the water. And Crocodile Dundee surveys the scene...
You could be anywhere but this IS Hartlepool...
This Wednesday, 26th May will see our first LIVE Spanish Music Event at Casa del Mar.
It will feature Mark Boden, an amazing Flamenco guitarist and singer accompanied by Phil Philo on guitar and Kris McConnell on the Cajon (box drum) and percussion.
Mark has taught music both privately and in schools since 1996. To further his understanding of Spanish music he attended a Flamenco school in the heart of Andalucia, Spain.Mark says: "Flamenco inspires me to dedicate my time and skills as a musician, not for fame, but because I love it. I play Flamenco because of its passion, grace and emotion. I can express my emotions through it be that of happiness, sadness and love."
Personally, I have always loved Flamenco.It is a musical style that hails from Moorish North Africa which I grew up listening to on a daily basis. This music more than any other, never fails to send shivers down my spine.
Why not come down to the Marina for a couple of tapas, a glass of vino and a true taste of Andalucia.
Check out Mark's videos HERE.
Yes! Made it!
Twenty five years ago today, Karen and I opened Krimo's on Seaton Carew front at 7.30pm to a full house. It really seems like yesterday. Finishing off the last details and diving head first into a 25 year long happy saga in Hartlepool, my adopted town.
How many customers have we fed and watered or wined?
How many carrots have we sliced and cooked?
Fish, meat, chickens? How many?
How many hellos and goodbyes?
"Is everything ok?"
How many babies in nappies have returned to celebrate their 18th, engagement or wedding?
How many chef's hats have I lost down the Front on a windy evening?
My memory is good but yours are even better.
You remember details that have long been forgotten.
You remember the first time you experience Krimo's welcome and hospitality.
Then came Portofino on the Historic Quay and that was an overnight success. A place where couples, families and parties can relax and enjoy a variety of dishes, from pizzas and pastas to fish, poultry and meats...
The Millenium took Krimo's to its lovely location on the Marina right by the lockgates where beautiful yachts come and go past the wide windows as diners enjoy the chefs latest creations.
Casa del Mar, a very popular tapas bar, my favourite eating style, opened in 2006 and four years later, goes on attracting diners from far and wide.
Once you have been bitten by the restaurant bug, it is impossible to live any other life. Restaurant life is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. It becomes your work, your leisure and your social life.
Twenty five years later, do I want a rest from this life?
No way, as well as being my work, restaurant life has also been my 25 year holiday.
Karen and I enjoying a late supper in 1986
5pm on Saturday.
The dreaded news.
A massive power cut on Krimo's side of the Marina meant that the restaurant would not operate that evening.
Dismayed staff arrived only to find out that they had been handed a rare Saturday night off. Most of them did not know whether to smile or to appear sad.
Hayley and I got our mobiles out and began disappointing our diners.
One lady had already begun to get ready for her 7.30 booking. And I had always thought Karen spent too long getting ready.
Although I could discern the disappointment in their voices, most of our prospective customers felt sorry for us and the irretrievable loss of business.
We suggested a change of venue. Portofino or Casa del Mar on the other side of the Marina were untouched by the electrical fault.
A few accepted and did dine satisfyingly at our other two restaurants.
I commiserated with, consoled and cajoled the ones whose special celebration had been spoilt.
Later when I sat down with a glass of wine, I knew that the fault had been repaired, most of our customers had a good evening either in our other restaurants or at home planning another outing.
I also knew that there was no use in shedding tears over spilt milk.
I poured myself a second glass of wine.
went very well.
I hyperventilated all afternoon but managed to stand up at 6pm in front of 4o people. I knew most of them. I could talk to them one to one, one to six but one to forty was daunting.
Tell them something funny and then you will relax if they laugh.
That same morning I was in a steamed-up steam room at my local gym.
The door opened. A female shape walked in and sat down.
I said: "Good morning."
She said: "I saw your photo in the paper last week."
How the hell did she recognise me?
Whenever I go back to my hometown in Algeria nobody recognises me, even in bright daylight!
I am a bloody celebrity in Hartlepool!
They laughed. I relaxed.
I waffled for a whole hour and answered questions for half an hour.
The organiser said that I'd had them eating out of the palm of my hand.
They couldn't have been hungry. The buffet had been sumptious.
The feedback was generous.
That night I dreamed of stage, Hollywood and Hamlet and woke up very early remembering what I had not said.
An audience (part two) ? Who knows.