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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Celebratory lunch at Pasta Loco

Pasta Loco hasn’t been open a year yet and it has already become one of Bristol’s most talked about and lusted after restaurants. The carbonara alone has become the stuff of local legend. To fully extend my birthday celebrations I decided to take two days off after the day itself to indulge in eating and spending time with Rich, cats and friends. I had earmarked Tuesday for a lunch trip to Pasta Loco. For £10 you can have two courses, or for £13 you can go the whole hog and have all three. An exceptional deal such as this required company, so when I saw Charlie was looking to celebrate news of her own we joined forces and she kindly booked a table of four. 


 The restaurant is small, but charming, so booking is definitely advised for the evening. However if you find yourself passing by on a lunch time you will probably be lucky to pop in and find a free table. Lunchtimes offer a simple 3 choices per course on the menu which keeps indecision to a minimum. We were welcomed in very warmly from the rain and swiftly set about choosing our lunches, after ordering a round of drinks of course. Birthdays call for Prosecco so naturally I indulged. A selection of local beers are available such as Wiper & True and Lost and Grounded so you will be in good company when it comes to hops.

 

My choices from the menu were easy to make, starting with something fairly light I opted for the roasted beetroot with goats curd and rocket. I also ordered some of the focaccia which I was informed, was still warm from the oven. My main was the option that had me particularly excited. Fettuccine with tomato, mascarpone and n’duja. N’duja is a little bit of an obsession of Rich and mine. This smoky and spicy salami is often found in the form of a spreadable pasta often stored in oil, great on pizza or in pasta. However it’s not often on many menus so as soon as I find a dish that has it in, I am there.

 

 My starter was simple but tasty. The creamy curd worked wonderfully with the earthy beetroot. Having said that it only made me more hungry for my fettuccine that was on route. My will power was strong enough to leave some of that springy focaccia to mop up any leftover sauce.  Not too long after were were brought steaming bowls of pasta. All of us, bar Chris who went for the linguine with mussels, had ordered the fettuccine. A nice sizable heap of pasta sat in front of me with a healthy grating of Parmesan on the top. The smell was intoxicating, although that could have had something to do with the Prosecco. Pasta has long been a source of comfort for me, there is never a time when it won’t perk me up at least by 25-50%. 


 

 Fork in hand I stabbed a chunk of n’duja and started twirling the nearest orphaned strand of pasta. I don’t really have enough superlatives in which to describe how much I enjoyed this bowl of fettuccine. Creamy, tangy and spicy. It was perfection that’s all I can say really. I am still thinking about it now almost two weeks later, already thinking about when I can take a week day off just to get a fix of their pasta. I had some good news this week at work and I think this calls for booking up an evening here to celebrate. 

 

To find out more about Pasta Loco visit their website

Friday, 3 March 2017

Time for Pho

Pho is a dish that originated in Vietnam traditionally consisting of an aromatic beef or chicken broth with rice noodles, meat, beansprouts and fresh herbs. Usually you’ll find a selection of sauces to mix into your pho for extra flavour and spice. Pho is the healthier relative of ramen. It’s not something I’ve had regular contact with partly because of the expected presence of a great deal of coriander and also the availability of Vietnamese food in Bristol is quite small, but having walked passed Pho a number of times and heard mostly positive things I decided to take a punt.  Kym and I were well over due a catch up so we picked this spot for lunch. Pho is a chain of just over 20, mainly London based, restaurants providing an entirely gluten free menu or options to make gluten free. Most bowls are under £10 so it’s a good place to go on a budget of an evening. 

pho 
The tables are populated with lots of Pho paraphernalia, fish sauce, pickled chillis, sriracha hot sauce and chilli oil so you can season your Pho to however hot or not you wish.  Wanting to get started on the eating part we made up our minds fairly swiftly I opted for a  Phở tái chín; steak and brisket pho with a starter of crispy squid. Kym meanwhile went for the Phở đặc biệt; prawn, steak and tofu in garlic beef broth plus a starter of spring rolls, with your dip of choice, which in Kym’s case, was satay.
 
Our starters arrived fairly promptly, which was just as well because we were tipping over into hanger. I was advised to squeeze my lime wedge into a pot of flavoured salt and fresh chilli with a quick mix this was a delightfully fresh dip for the small bites of crispy tempura squid.  Spring rolls are often something that is denied to the gluten free but not at Pho. Crispy rice paper rolls stuffed full of pork and veggies, and a creamy nutty satay dip to compliment them, these were some of the best spring rolls I’ve had in a long time. The portion is generous and will satisfy any craving, gluten free or otherwise.
 

 

Our Pho arrived after a bit of a wait and two large steaming bowls were set in front of our widening eyes. The herbs, chilli and beansprouts are thoughtfully placed on a plate so you can add as much or as little to your pho as you wish.   As we both like fairly spicy food we added all the chilli and set about sampling most of the aforementioned pho accoutrements so each of our bowls had a delightful kick. I was particularly impressed with the brisket, it was tender and melted in the mouth. The steak wasn’t as full flavoured as the brisket but with the additions I had made to my bowl it didn’t matter too much. I was hugely impressed with the food at Pho. The service was a touch slow and inattentive at times but it wasn’t bad enough to stop me from returning, which I did the following week with Jane after work. 
 


Pho offers something a little different for lunch in the centre. I would hesitate to recommend going in a lunch hour if you have a deadline but if you have enough time to while a way a lazy lunch it’s an excellent option  and I am looking forward to slurping up my next bowl. To find out more about Pho visit their website.

Monday, 13 February 2017

New Menu from The Burger Joint

Last week Rich and I were invited to the launch of the new Burger Joint menu. The Burger Joint is a bit of a Bristol institution.  Born in 2009 on Cotham Hill in a tiny restaurant with about 20 covers, owner Dan Bekhradnia and his team serve up create your own burgers with a choice of about 30 toppings. This proved hugely popular and soon Dan was looking for a larger venue, so when Planet Pizza vacated their Whiteladies premises it proved to be kismet. Fast forward  to 2017 and you can find branches in Bedminster and Fishponds. 

To keep up with the increasing trend of people moving over to vegetarian and vegan diets and choices the Burger Joint has refreshed their menu with some new vegetarian and vegan picks. You can also find some new hardshakes, alcoholic milkshakes, I first came across these at The Diner in London several years ago. There are some suggested combinations, but Dan encourages people to make up their own from their selection of ice cream and spirits. I chose vanilla, salted caramel and dark rum and very tasty it was too, not too thick so it doesn’t fill you up too much before your burger.

As well as the pre-existing veggie joint and the, much celebrated, mushroom with garlic and herb burgers, veggies and vegans can now order the vegan joint or the gluten free beetroot and feta burger. There is also the addition of vegan cheese to top your burgers with as well as over 10 meat free toppings. We got to sample the new beetroot and feta burger patties and I have to say they were excellent. Full of flavour the chopped basil really added something special. I think it would surprise meat eaters everywhere. I think adding these as a falafel optional side dish would be a winner because having to choose between the patty options is just too difficult.
beetroot and feta burgers
Another key item added to the menu is the truffle and Parmesan fries. I had my eyes on these from the off and Dan brought out dishes of these to share between pairs. I am not normally much of a fry person, more a chunky chip girl. Fries can be limp and flavourless, this was not the case here. Crisp golden fries with a good grating of Parmesan and a dash of truffle flavour coming through. Rich and I were fans and these disappeared in the blink of an eye. 

Once sampling of some of the new items had finished we were encouraged to tick our orders on one of the Burger Joint tick box forms.  I tend to have a standard order which is the beef burger topped with brie, blue cheese and chilli con carne, it’s tried and tested and remains to be creamy, spicy and messy all in one bite. However I thought I should try some different toppings, so I went all veggie with my toppings but sticking with the beef. So guacamole, roasted peppers and the newly added smoked Applewood cheddar crowned my Ruby and White sourced patty.


I am never disappointed when I go to the Burger Joint and this night was no exception. Dan knows his burgers and you will always leave feeling full. Unlike many burger places one side is included in the price so you can choose between a saintly salad, fairly sensible sweet potato chips or go full out with onion rings, as well as the normal fries you’d expect from a burger place. Like Dan and his staff who have welcomed so many Bristolians already, the new menu makes room for veggies and vegans alike to feel more at home. So if you’ve not paid a visit to one of the Burger Joints in a while, go check it out, and take your veggie friends with you. To check out the new options head to their website.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Birthday Celebrations at The Kensington Arms

The first Friday of January we were celebrating the birthdays of two good friends born two days apart. As we were all still recovering from New Years Eve, either from hangovers or genuine illnesses we opted for a plan of low key dinner and drinks.  Josh Eggleton has recently taken over the ownership of the Kensington Arms we thought this would be a good spot to check out. The Kenny has always been a super cosy pub with a reputation for good food, a browse of a sample menu before our visit had Rich and I both salivating at the options. Table was booked for 7.30 which was lucky as it meant we missed the downpour that followed. 
 
The menu on the night contained a varied selection of mains, including three fish dishes, some pub classics and one vegetarian option. What I was particularly drawn to was their selection of puddings mostly all containing ingredients that conjured up cosy Winter evenings. I am not normally a dessert person, it has to be something particularly intriguing to sway me, but sway me they did so I opted for a lighter main choice to accommodate room for an indulgent sweet.

Rich chose the rare onglet steak with roasted tomato, field mushrooms, chips and peppercorn sauce whilst I picked the vegetarian option; ricotta gnocchi, cavolo nero, tomato compote and caper salsa. Whilst some of our table opted for starters such as, devilled whitebait with aioli and a plate of fishcakes with warm tartare sauce, Rich and I chose a little taster of a quail scotch egg each. 
 

 
The scotch eggs arrived with a runny centre, as expected and a blob of smooth chutney. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what flavour it was, it reminded me of fig but I was told that it was a branston pickle puree. It was tangy but sweet, hugely enjoyable. The crumb round the scotch egg was crisp but I found the actual sausage meat lacking in seasoning which was a bit of a shame.  

The pub was busy so we waited quite a while for our mains. Once our plates arrived most of the portions seemed generous, except mine, it was a touch on the small side. However gnocchi is deceptively filling and it looked appetising so I ventured on in. I have to say I loved this dish. The cavolo nero came crisped in part which added a nice texture, the tomato compote was my favourite element, full of rich tomato flavour. The only thing I might have added was some toasted nuts of some description for even more crunch. Was I hungry afterwards, a little, but that was the objective, to leave room for dessert. Rich’s steak was plentiful, juicy and rare as expected. A wonderful cut of meat, lovingly prepared and cooked, a triumph. The only downside was the absence of the listed mushrooms, these did not make an appearance on the plate.


It was time to pick a dessert. There are only a few flavours that if they make an appearance on the menu I have to order them. Chocolate is not one of them, caramel or toffee is however. So I ordered the sticky toffee pudding with Christmas pudding ice cream which Rich chose the orange pannacotta and burnt orange caramel.  Other offerings included a chocolate mousse cake with peanut butter ice cream and maple and pecan tart with clotted cream ice cream.

 

 
I would say that the dessert, for me at least, was the highlight of the meal. It’s a course that for some places can be a bit of an after-thought.  However the sticky toffee pudding was as light as anything but coated in a rich buttery toffee sauce. What elevated it was the Christmas pudding ice cream. When I first tasted it I described it as complex, for which I was some what derided, however they agreed it had layers of flavour. What you get is a spiced ice cream and then you gradually tasted the soaked fruit and then the torched whiskey at the end. In a word, wonderful. Rich loved his dessert he said the burnt orange caramel was smoky and filled with a deep orange flavour. A pretty successful visit and we were sleepy, warm and full. 

We all enjoyed our trip to the new Kensington Arms definitely would return for dinner again. It is important to note that the service, though friendly, was slow. Replenishing drinks was a little tricky as was asking for the bill. There seemed to be enough staff on the ground but perhaps not as attentive as they could have been, but perhaps this is something you might expect on a busy Friday night. To find out more check out a sample menu on their website

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Birthday celebrations at Nutmeg

The other weekend we went out for our good friend Jamie’s birthday. She had wanted to go for a curry after much deliberation and many messages between us, newly opened restaurant, Nutmeg in Clifton Village was chosen. I had seen many good tweets appearing about Nutmeg and was hoping that our experience would be just as wonderful. 

Situated in what used to be Bombay Spice, a particularly good curry house in my opinion, Nutmeg has modernised the interior with a lovely bright peacock frieze which catches the eye and gives a warm feel to the place. The menu here is a bit different to regular curry houses, so although you can find a few familiar faces such as Saag, Rogen Josh and Jalfrezi there are also a number of strangers, but the kind of strangers you want to get to know. They have a 29 at the top of the menu one dish to reflect each of the 29 states of India so there are lots of different styles of curry to sample.

Complimentary mini poppadoms and chutneys were brought to the table for us to snack on whilst we tried to narrow down our food choices. The chutneys were not the standard offerings but were tasty, although I did mourn just a touch for regular mango chutney, the spicy lime and coriander offering was delicious.  After a lot of back and forth I opted for the lamb saag, because a good base test of a place is to sample a standard, a portion of saag cheese aloo and some rice. Rich chose the lamb shank which was slow cooked with Nawab kitchen spice and served with baby naans.
Nutmeg Bristol poppadoms

Bristol Nutmeg chutneys  

Whilst we waited we soaked up the atmosphere, it was very busy in the restaurant on this particular evening so I would say booking is highly advisable. Consequently it meant the service was a pretty slow and occasionally uncoordinated but our food arrived after a reasonable wait and was greeted with hungry hurrahs.  Rich’s in particular when the big lamb shank, sitting up proudly on the plate coated in spiced sauce. 

It is worth noting that the menu doesn’t have an indication of spice level, so for those of you with a sensitivity to heat it’s worth inquiring. My saag was pretty nicely heated, I love hot food so was surprised to experience more of a kick in what is normally a fairly mild curry. Earthy and with a generous helping of melt in the mouth lamb I was delighted with my choice. The saag cheese aloo had the addition of cheddar cheese into the mix made it a more indulgent side dish to share with my carb loving bestie. 


 
 With some of Rich’s fluffy mini naans I had the opportunity to have a dip in the sauce of his lamb shank. What a sauce. Aromatic, spiced but only a medium heat it was a showstopper and he was pleased with his choice.  Finally the birthday girl was extremely pleased with her beef madras. Jamie is a chilli fanatic so she was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be hot enough but it satisfied her need for heat and the portion was a decent size.
 
 


We were pretty impressed by Nutmeg and totally stuffed, which was a shame as I had been recommended the chai crème brulee on Twitter. I hope to return to Nutmeg again very soon the curry was excellent and offered something a little different. To find out more about what Nutmeg has to offer check out their website


Friday, 30 September 2016

Tuesday Night Testing Polpo

This month we were invited, along with other bloggers and food enthusiasts to sample the newly opened Polpo restaurant on Whiteladies. Situated where Entelia used to be, Polpo describes itself as a bacaro, a Venetian word for a humble restaurant serving simple food and young Italian wines. Basically I think it is quite hard to describe yourself as humble it's for other people to decide really, and to be honest I am not sure whether this fits the brief of the description, for reasons I shall explain shortly.

Polpo opened its first branch in Soho in 2009 and has expanded over the years to eight restaurants, mostly in London but now also one each in Brighton and Bristol. Polpo is the Italian word for octopus and you can get a few dishes of the eight armed creature to sample. The menu is one of small plates to share or keep to yourself depending on how territorial you are about your food choices. I still don't really like small plates but if the food is good I can warm to them, it is a case by case basis for me. Rich and I were welcomed by owner Russell Norman, which was a nice touch. We chose an Aperol spritz to start which is a favourite after honeymooning in Venice in April. We were brought some of their stuffed fried olives to munch on whilst we perused the menu.

The menu is set out in sections such as pizzette, meat, fish, vegetables and also cicheti. Cicheti bars can be found all over Venice serving bite sized snacks to accompany an after work drink or quick lunch. We chose a few more cicheti, more olives, arancini, potato and parmesan crocchette and coppa and peperonata crostini. Polpo have a section for just meatballs so seeing this as a sign we opted for the pork and fennel ones with spaghetti. We also went for a gorgonzola & prosciutto pizzette, some fried gnocchi with rainbow chard pesto and peccorino. 
deep fried olives







With more dishes than arms arriving in front of us we started off with the cicheti. For me the most enjoyable elements of the whole meal were in some of the little snacks we started with. The deep fried olives are something I've never seen before. They are stuffed with anchovy, coated in breadcrumbs and fried, and they are incredible. Easily the best thing Polpo do. I also really enjoyed the arancini - creamy, crunchy and light. The crostini were crisp and topped with roasted pepper, prosciutto, capers and I think ricotta, very tasty indeed. I wasn't totally sold on the crocchette it was a bit like a hash brown with more finely grated potato.
Polpo dishes



On the the 'main' dishes. For £9 you can have three fairly large meatballs of your choice with spaghetti, not exactly a bargain. But I thought for a place that has five varieties of meatballs these have got to be worth it. They weren't. Fennel overpowered the meat I could barely taste any meat flavour at all and the tomato sauce was fairly bland as well. The pizzette had some tasty toppings but the base lacked salt. 
Polpo dishes

Polpo Meatballs


Polpo dishes
Lastly the gnocchi with rainbow chard pesto and pecorino, the gnocchi were soft and potatoey but the pesto was just too oily and flavourless to make the dish stand out. All in all a bit disappointed with the dishes we chose. We decided to finish with a coffee and ricotta doughnuts with cinnamon sugar to share. These were almost raw and doughy inside with a floury taste. It was a shame about how the rest of the meal went because the cicheti were really delicious. In fact I would welcome having a cicheti and drinks bar in Bristol. As it is I find Polpo a little expensive for what you get and the taste isn't quite there. Humble makes me think of homely food at a low price such as your mama used to make and I am not sure that describes Polpo to me.

I think despite this Polpo will be quite popular. It is a fairly well known brand and the location will catch some great after work traffic. Our meal was free of charge but did not impact my opinion. To find out more about Polpo check out their website.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Lucy's 30th Birthday Afternoon Tea at The Ritz

Recently my sister turned 30. To me that is strange to behold. No matter how old she gets I think there will always be that instinct to look after her, that's what older sisters are for right? Anyway Lucy decided that a week long celebration was in order, a series of treats which included; roller disco, home made pizzas and stall seats at Phantom of the Opera.  Before going to the show however Lucy had booked in afternoon tea for two at the Ritz. Intending to take her friend the night before I got a message saying that unfortunately her friend was still recovering and could I jump on a train to London the next day? For my sister, anything. That and tea at the Ritz is one of those things you have to cross off the list, and Phantom is my favourite show.


The Ritz requires dressing up a bit so we scrubbed our faces extra hard and put on a nice dress each. It is as you would imagine inside, lots of gold accents and the tea room has a lot of mirrors, so the light is rather wonderful. Seated at a table for two we browsed the tea menu and once the smartly dressed waiter came round we ordered a pot of chai and a  Russian caravan for me. Dietary requirements discussed, Lu is a vegetarian, we waited for our food to arrive and spent the next few moments marvelling at the surroundings.





The Ritz

Devouring all the sandwiches, which were generously filled. We eyed up which cake to tackle first and got stuck in. Afternoon tea is always more filling than you remember so soon we were almost stuffed to the gills and ready to throw in the towel. However as I plunged my fork into the last cake, the white chocolate coated one in the photo, I realised that this was something special. A hidden passion fruit centre and the softest most delicious dessert I've had in a long time. I urged my sister to sample hers, despite being full.  Happiness ensued from both sides of the table for several minutes. By the time the waiters brought round the cake trolley to offer a slice of one of their specials we had to decline.

Full to the rafters with cake this had certainly been an experience and it was wonderful to have shared it with Lucy. At £50 per person this is probably one of the most expensive afternoon teas out there. But it is one to tick off the list and a happy memory of sisterly time well spent. It is advised to book well in advance for afternoon tea at The Ritz although weekdays are obviously easier to get a slot for than weekends. To find out more visit The Ritz site.