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Monday, 18 September 2017

Burger Cures at Hubbox

What feels like Bristol’s umpteenth burger restaurant, Hubbox opened this Summer to a few teething problems but soon they were smoothed out and serving burgers to the citizens of Whiteladies and beyond. One Sunday when we were hungov.. tired and emotional we managed to drag our carcasses off the sofa in search of salt and a hope that one day we might be able to be out in sunlight again without wincing.  We stumbled in to Hubbox to check out the latest new burger in town. 

 

Hubbox does offer up a selection of beef, chicken and veggie/vegan burgers but it also has the choice of two fish burgers which is something a little different. You can also order hotdogs, some barbecued items as well as loaded fries, wings and mac n cheese. As is the current trend burgers do not come with sides but as the burgers hover around the £8 mark adding on fries doesn’t make this too pricey. 



 I have been here three times in the past few months and here are my findings.  Their Kim Yum Chick, Korean influenced fried chicken burger really is something special. Spicy, tangy Korean mayo sauce and a particularly crunchy batter  elevate this for me. To be honest I will only ever order this burger I can’t see anything topping it at Hubbox.  I tried the Brie B King, chicken breast with brie and caramelised onions and garlic mayo, it was pretty nice but not enough to order again. The portion of fries is a little small in my opinion but when shared with a partner in crime with some mac n cheese (I recommend the blue and bacon) it does fill you up nicely.  



When you have so many burgers to choose from you do start minutely detailing how they differ from each other. Hubbox doesn’t crack my top three but you know what? That fried chicken burger is enough to get me back there especially with a hangover the size of Brazil. They offer up just few different things to give it a second glance over the behemoth that is Bristol’s Burger scene, of which I still have many more offerings to sample. To find out more about Hubbox visit their website.


Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Souvlaki Realness at The Athenian

Greek food. Often relegated to the post beer kebab category strips of greasy mystery meat that tops a grilled pitta glistening with intent and lots of garlic mayonnaise. You want a kebab now don’t you? But it gets a bad rep being the drunk’s choice, Greek food, done right is a wonderful thing. Bristol doesn’t have much in the way of decent Greek restaurants, maybe 4 ish at most, the somewhat secret Cyprus Kebab House being a particular favourite of mine. However Cargo 2 has come to the rescue with the arrival of The Athenian.  Athenian already has a few openings across London, including Boxpark, the first shipping container retail and dining mall which Wapping  Wharf is based on.  What the Athenian is offering up is souvlaki. Souvlaki are derived from the Turkish doner kebab, in fact gyros comes from the word to spin. The Greeks have made them their own by adding fries into the meat and salad combo. 


The Athenian offer options for carnivores, veggies and vegans alike. You can choose from beef and lamb bifteki, the Greek word for kofte, chicken, pork, halloumi, mixed veg and mushrooms. It also offers options for varying states of hunger. Which is lucky because I am usually ravenous.  Each main filling comes with a designated sauce, chicken for example comes with a honey mustard style one, and the kofte with a light tzatziki. There is also the option to add extra meat and/or halloumi. The halloumi is proper imported Hellenic stuff and it’s texture is a lot firmer and more delicious than what you can buy in the supermarkets, so well worth a punt I’d say. 


the Athenian gyros


 I  sampled the kofte on my first visit along with a side of oregano fries and some of the feta and smoked chilli dip, which I believe is the accompaniment for the pork. I also opted for a chunk of halloumi to make sure I sampled my first gyros by The Athenian, properly. After several visits to the Athenian I can categorically say that this is a great place to get a quick and tasty feed. Certainly a welcome sight if you are hungover and have to count on Deliveroo bringing tasty Greek treats to your door, they travel very well. But it’s nicer if you can visit in person, plus if the sun is shining you can grab a cool drink and watch the boats wizzing up and down. 

oregano fries with feta dip



Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Burgers at Asado

 

How many ways are there to offer up meat patties in a bun. If Bristol is anything to go by, hundreds.  You have your build your own places like the ever fabulous, Burger Joint. American style, such as 3 Brothers' Burgers and then you have the unchanging set creations such as Chomp. Months of developing the perfect tasting burger without having to add anything extra. Asado, Spanish for barbecue, falls into the latter category and puts a slight South American spin on our favourite fast food. A small menu of carefully crafted burgers and a few sides to go with them. You might think that Bristol is over-run with burger and pizza places but the number of decent burger joints I return to again and again I can count on one hand.  


Asado opened last month with great flourish as a heap of bloggers descended on the restaurant for a preview night. Situated on Colston St just down from the Colston Yard pub. Asado cooks it’s beef patties and chicken wings on a wood fired grill so you get the chargrilled flavour on the meat. Championing Bristol from the off, with Minirig speakers providing the sound in the restaurant, and Ruby and White’s providing the organic meat, you know you’ll be in good hands. 

 

The menu has two beef options, one fried chicken and a veggie.  The signature Asado burger tops organic beef with West Country cheddar, pickled red onion, chimichurri sauce, ketchup and confit garlic mayonnaise Likewise with the other beef option, El Don, you will find cheddar, pancetta and bbq onions to go with the garlic mayo and salad. It’s a burger Jim, but not quite as we know it. Tweaking what we expect from the traditional burger and twisting it a touch.  It’s making small changes such as these that take a burger from delicious to sublime. 




The only controversy is that Asado prides itself on cooking the burgers pink and juicy which does tend to divide people. It’s not exactly a problem as you can ask for your burger to be cooked a bit more. I am more in-between when it comes to burgers, I like the texture of a more cooked burger but the juiciness of a pink one. So for me a rosy blush is ideal rather than rare, and as it was pointed out unless you are following the rules pink burgers can make you poorly. Asado have some astringent policies in place regarding this and have been found a safe venue in which to chow down on a pink burger without worry.

 

What impresses me most with Asado is the attention to detail. Making their own habanero hot sauce and mayonnaise for the table just for your fries, which with the rosemary were excellent.  Even the oak smoked chicken wings had their own spicy yet creamy coriander sauce drizzled over the top. This sauce has quite a kick and it’s glorious, many places are too afraid to give any real heat to sauces, not Asado however. 


It takes some serious cajones to open another burger place in Bristol but I can guarantee you that it will elbow it’s way to the top of your list with all the charm of Ferris Bueller, you’ll want to bunk off work just to hang with these burgers. I was privileged to be amongst the group of bloggers, but I also returned as a paying customer just under two weeks after the preview evening.  It was the perfect birthday lunch treat for Rich, he almost couldn’t believe the flavour that came out of a burger.  It immediately shot straight into our top 3 burgers in Bristol.  Look out for limited edition specials, a small number being made each day, the current one is flying out the door. A beef burger made with bone marrow and topped with crispy shoestring onions and cheese. I am salivating just thinking about it, it is next on my burger hit list. 


Asado are open every day for lunch and dinner bar Monday. They are a very welcome addition to the restaurant scene of Bristol and I am looking forward to my next visit. To find out more about Asado, visit their website.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Inaugeral Pudding Society of Bristol

Before I went to New York I had the great honour to be invited by my friend Charlie to sample her first stab at a pudding pop up. What stemmed from a Twitter conversation amongst Bristol pudding fans soon snowballs into an idea. It was revealed that there was a distinct lack of classic puddings available to us Bristolians. So Charlie, decided to start her own tribute to great puddings of old, resurrect some classics and introduce some soon to be favourites. What was quickly first established from a poll was that treacle tart was a much longed for and hard to acquire dish so this was one of the first pudding courses to be thrown in to the ring. 

Less than 20 tickets were offered up for the first pudding society, hosted at Bristol Spirit in Easton. Run by Espensen Spirit creator Sam, who creates the most wonderful concoctions of flavoured spirits all from fresh fruit, expect to find rhubarb and custard vodka and blueberry gin. Charlie and Sam worked to create a wonderful menu of puddings and matching cocktails. An exciting prospect to those who particularly look straight at the dessert offerings on a restaurant menu or to those who are merely disappointed with the often lack of thought that goes into pudding menus, 
pudding society menu

To cleanse our palate a home made slice of sourdough toast with beetroot ketchup, goat's cheese and rocket, salty and slightly sharp. What was the most amazing thing was how good the bread was. I've often been under the impression, in fact in a hugely humorous blog post by Charlie herself on failed starter doughs, that sourdough can be quite the beast to master. But master it she has and it was just the ticket to get the tastebuds flowing for the start of our journey into Sugarland.

A British favourite to begin, a constructed Eton mess. Crispy meringues topped with booze soaked fruit and whipped vanilla cream. Just the right amount of booze on the fruit and a fluffy innard to the meringue shell. I have to confess early on that this was probably my favourite pudding of the day. It is hard to get meringue just the right texture and they evoke a deep nostalgia in me. Meringue shells with fruit and cream was often a go to pudding when I was growing up, not that puddings were a very regular thing. Spoons were licked and there was barely a plate left unscraped, but I was in a room of pudding fanatics and they were in their element.

 We weren't waiting long when the much talked of treacle tart made an appearance. The staple of the lunch room's dessert arsenal at my school, along with jam roly poly and cornflake tart,  and in all honesty it had been about then when I last had it. But banish all visions of pink or mint green custard as the expected accompaniment this individual tart was crowned with a scoop of Brozen's brown bread ice cream. An ice cream flavour first popular in the Victorian era and then in the 90s, it could well be due a renaissance. The tart was sticky and sweet but the pastry was buttery and short enough but not that it was dry and crumbly. A good treacle tart is a wonderfully comforting thing, and this was just that. Which is what a good pud should be, happiness on a plate. We voted for a pause in proceedings whilst we digested the first three courses. As I don't have a big sweet tooth I was glad because I was struggling a touch.

On to the penultimate pud. Chocolate stout cake with salted caramel and whipped mascarpone. Charlie was the first to admit this course had not gone to plan but she improvised with plating differently to accommodate and we were greeted by old fashioned mini pint glasses filled with cake and rich promises. This was my least favourite I think because I found the cake a little too heavy and rich for my tastes but the mascarpone was light and sweet enough to be divine. I made a tactical decision to leave some of this dessert to make sure I had enough space for the finale.

To finish a light last course. A gin and Prosecco jelly with rhubarb curd and fruit compote with shortbread. If anything was fighting for first place with the meringues it was this. Slightly sharp and clean tasting, Charlie should bottle that rhubarb curd and sell it. I guarantee a chorus of: "shut up and take my money" if she did. A perfect end to a pretty successful afternoon of eating. 

I realise that as a friend it can be hard to remain impartial. I think what surprised me the most was just how accomplished and organised it was for a first pop up. I don't want people reading this to think I believe Charlie to be incompetent but she is pretty quiet about her skills but I never doubted her passion. And that is what is the best thing about Bristol, it has so many people who are passionate about food but have the goods to back it up, quietly building their rep up and gaining a following on their merits. Two more pudding societies have been and gone since I visited, each one sold out and each time a couple more tickets have been made available as word spreads. If you haven't had a chance to eat your body weight in puddings there are now tickets available for the September - December societies each with different menus so get buying.

Fish and Chips at Catch22

Fish and chips, the signature British takeaway. Synonymous with seaside trips and post pub munchies. The humble chippy has made an appearance in most of our lives at some point. Fish and chips, so British it puts an appearance on every pub menu and if you watch American sit-coms it’s what they think we eat every day. However unless you are by the seaside it can be difficult to find a chippy to sit down and enjoy the crunchy golden delights at your leisure. Catch 22 opened at the bottom of Park Street earlier this year in what used to be a recruitment agency. I was invited by them last month to test out their wares and so one Wednesday evening I took one of my closest friends, Steph for a fish supper.

After sinking a pint at the nearby Hatchett, a pub where we have spent many a weekend dancing away, we headed the short distance to Catch 22. As you enter the counter and frying station are the first things that greet you and it is just like stepping into your local chippy, but with a restaurant with seating out back. The back is actually more spacious than I imagined the walls are covered with 50s B-movie posters, which greatly appealed to me as I enjoy kitsch very much. So you can happily dine whilst being watched by the creature from the Black Lagoon.

There are a number of options on the menu, the standard fare but for those looking for a healthier option they will also pan fry you some fish with garlic and herb or chilli for a bit of pep. They also have a separate fryer for gluten free fish and chips which I know can be a hard thing to track down for the gluten intolerant. A friendly waitress buzzed amongst the tables and we ordered cod and chips, the classic, and steph went for scampi and chips with some battered mushrooms and curry sauce for dipping. We waited about 15 minutes whilst we chatted away about up coming plans, the smell coming from the fryers was intoxicating to rumbling bellies such as ours. The waitress arrived with two plates filled with golden treasures and with gleaming eyes we got stuck in.




The batter on my fish was as crisp as you always hope for it to come but often are disappointed because it has come into contact with steam or rogue water from peas and become a bit too soggy.  My cod had a good batter to fish ratio and the fillet was plump and very fresh. Chips were just as enjoyable, with enough chunky fluffy ones but also some good salty crisp ones to satisfy all fried potato enthusiasts. The portions for both the scampi and the cod were generous, you certainly won't go hungry.

The only real disappointment were the battered mushrooms, no real effort to flavour these with anything that might make them sing out and worth ordering as an extra with your fish supper.  Catch 22 is definitely worth a visit, you'll be warmed by a very enjoyable British classic, that's a cut above most offerings in the city. Plus afterwards you can pop up the road for a scoop of Swoon gelato, if you have enough room that is. Although this meal was complimentary it did not sway my opinion. To find out more about Catch 22 visit their website.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Friday Night Birthday Curry at The Mint Room

A couple of weeks ago Phil had booked us a table at the Mint Room for his birthday, with mixed results, Rich takes a look over our experience there.

I don’t usually like to split reviews into ‘sections’, but the service at The Mint Room was uniquely weird that it needs its own discussion. Lazily aggressive is the best way you can sum it up. Requests for water for the table and asking for someone to come and take our drinks order would be met with agreement sounds, before our waiter would disappear, and then not come back. Ten minutes later they or someone else would reappear and we’d have to ask again. And it happened a few times.

When taking food orders, bear in mind we were eight people on a long table in a busy restaurant on a Friday night, the waiter would stand one end and shout at us, and we’d have to shout back, rather than him just stand closer to us. This lead to lots of back and forth and having to repeat, and one person inevitably getting the wrong dish. Luckily being a vegetarian, it was still a paneer dish, but very much not the right one.

 The worst, and most cringe-inducing aspect however was a female friend attempting to order a hot dish with this waiter. Asking what the hottest thing on the menu was, it took a few attempts to get something that clearly wasn’t medium heat. And then when it was agreed that the jalfrezi was the hottest thing on the menu, he was insistent (quite condescendingly) that she should only have the milder version, not the hot one. It reminded me of a time a friend of mine tried to order a drink at a bar, but the barman refused saying “No, you don’t want that. You want something sexier…” – presumably as some flunked attempt at barman-customer seduction. It didn’t work – she got bored and had a drink elsewhere - whereas this waiter-customer interaction just came across patronizingly as “I don’t think you can eat hot food”. What proved it was when another one of our group (male this time) asked for the same thing, was met with a nod and “Sure thing”.
 
As for the Food, the Mint Room menu is a decent affair, with an interesting blend of some familiar dishes (with a twist) and some lesser seen things, so it was a good opportunity to choose something a little different. We were brought two dishes of poppadom fragments with some dips for us to share, although these were removed before they were finished once we had ordered our mains, which I thought was somewhat odd. As for my main I opted for the Marinated Lamb Rumps ‘Chettinad’ Style, whilst Abby decided to go for the Chicken Lababdar, and a peshwari naan. The menu description for mine was “6oz lamb rumps marinated in freshly pounded black pepper corns and hung yoghurt, then seared over hot plancha, served with saffron Basmati rice and seasonal vegetables”. The slices of lamb was hot, and very tasty, and the bed of spiced yoghurt had a distinct and tasty flavor that went well with everything on the plate. However my seasonal vegetables consisted of just one baby carrot and two tiny heads of broccoli, and the rice seemed to consist of a lot of the sticky ‘stuck to the sides’ rice you get when using a rice cooker and leaving the rice in a bit too long. It was shame as the main event itself was very good and, a little bit different, and eminently recommendable.
 

 
Abby’s chicken lababdar was a more ‘traditional’ style curry dish but with a whole chicken breast cooked in sauce with ginger, green chillies, coriander and cream, and some rice.. It had a bit of a kick to it and actually was delicious, but as with my main there just wasn't a lot of rice. But she remarked that the naan was excellent and was perfect for mopping up any curry sauce.

One big problem with the food was that it wasn’t particularly filling – a rarity with when going out to eat Indian food, and particularly for one of us who’s missing a substantial part of stomach these days. That said what we did eat was good and I can recommend it for the food. The price is at the higher end of what you’d be happy to pay for a curry (our dishes on their own were £16 each, a pint of beer was £4.50), but the overall experience because of the service and the price means we’d be unlikely to choose to go back – especially when there is such a good selection of Indian cuisine to eat out or order in from many other venues all over Bristol. Nutmeg in the village for example is tastier and less expensive, plus the service is much more what you'd expect. To find out more about The Mint Room visit their website.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Cheering gyoza at Eatchu

When Jess at work decided she was up for a trip to St Nicks for lunch it was just the thing I needed to pick myself up out of the doldrums I’d been feeling for most of last week. We had the idea of popping our heads into Eatchu and seeing what was available and then passing through the glass arcade to find something to munch on for lunch. Well we didn’t get any further than the little premises of Eatchu, it smelled so good we decide to grab some gyoza to take back to the office.

Bristol has a great turn around of street food businesses setting up with permanent premises in a fairly short time.  Eatchu is another one of those success stories. Specialising in Japanese gyoza, or jiaozi if you are in a Chinese restaurant. These little dumplings can be filled with whatever your imagination can think of however the most common filling is pork and chive. These can be steamed, fried or both.  Eatchu have upgraded these snacks to make them into more of a meal. They have a selection of 5 different fillings, three meat and two vegan.


Eatchu has occupied a little space down Exchange Avenue diagonally opposite Trailfinders. It’s a small space but there’s enough room for a handful of people to sit in and chomp their way through their dumplings of choice. Plus the walls are decorated with kitsch Kawaii pictures which just add to the welcoming atmosphere. Plagued by indecision I asked for a recommendation. Chicken and nori butter gyoza with a portion of rice was what was suggested and it sounded delicious so I went with that. You can have as many sauces or toppings as you like. You can choose from chilli sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, enoki mushrooms and spring onions, to name a few. I adore Japanese mayo so this and chilli oil were the choices for me and Jess and I waited patiently for our gyoza to be cooked, all the while being tortured by the wonderful smells wafting over from the pans. 



 
After short wait we were handed some boxes of food, with the idea of taking them back to the office. Jess and I were overwhelmed by hunger and desire to taste the aroma that had been swirling around us whilst we waited. So we sampled just one for the road. Wow. It melted in the mouth it was sublime. The butter made it extra rich and flavoursome, I was in love. Rushing back to the office so we could properly get stuck in I discovered my rice was topped with a hefty amount of pickled ginger, nigella seeds, mayo and chilli sauce. I can honestly say that this lunch had me bouncing round the office, my mood was officially lifted. Fluffy rice with superb gyoza and toppings made for a heart soaring experience. Eatchu is getting a lot of recognition at the moment and with good reason, they offer something a little different for lunch and people should grab it with both hands. 

Six gyoza will set you back about £5-6 with £1.50 extra for rice. I just wish I was able to get my hands on these at dinner time, it's the perfect post work snack with a drink or two. To find out more visit their website.