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Friday, 31 August 2012

The Kensington Arms for Cheese, Wine & Nibbles

In all the four and a half years I have lived in Bristol I have never been to the Kensington Arms, there I said it. Quite the secret I have been keeping locked inside for years, feels good to get it out in the open. The Kenny, as it is often affectionately known, is renowned for it's excellent food and cosy atmosphere. Wuthering Bites had organised us a wine, cheese and general grazing evening and as we were a little early Rich and I decided to check out the wine list.

The Kenny has a wonderful wine list, lots to choose from but our eyes were immediately drawn to the Chilean El Campesino Cabernet Carmenere. Being fairly recent converts and then quickly super fans of Carmenere we always jump on it when we see it on a wine list, and we were not disappointed. It was fruity, rich and slightly spicy an excellent choice and went down far to easily. We shall be tracking this one down to buy a few more bottles of to top up the wine rack.
Kensington Arms Bristol

Rich and I decided to order, a cheese selection, triple cooked chips and home made pork pie and after a glass of wine I was getting decidedly peckish. Talk of Pokemon, cake and cats eased the burden of waiting for our nibbles to appear. I had taken the precaution of ordering 2 bowls of triple cooked chips as one thing most people agree on is how irritating it is when other people pinch their chips.
Kensington Arms Food Bristol
Up Close and Personal with  Triple Cheese Treat
Kensington Arms Food Bristol
Home Made Pork Pie...
Kensington Arms Food Bristol with mustard
Kensington Arms Food Bristol
Triple Cooked Chips
The home made pork pie was the star of the show for us, meaty, flavoursome jelly and the crunchy pastry you associate with a good pork pie, plus it really looked the business too. The cheese board was a little small for £7.50 I thought but the selections were good particularly the blue, slightly sharp but creamy and it melted in the mouth so delightfully. The only slight disappointment were the chips, though really crunchy and tasty they were really overly salted you can even see huge salt deposits in the above photo. The home made mayonnaise was however a real winner well recommended.

Having had a glimpse of what the Kenny is like I am really looking forward to having a meal in the restaurant part of the pub, the wafts of food coming from that area were divine. Plus it has given me a new favourite wine to enjoy and that can never be a bad thing.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Healing Breakfast at Cafe Cosmopolitan

The other weekend Rich and I were flagging, it was time to do the supermarket run and energy was running on empty. We decided to find something breakfasty and near the shops so after browsing Cotham Hill and considering our usual Deco Lounge we decided to pop up to Cafe Cosmopolitan just up from Richer Sounds. Cosmopolitan almost sits on the fence of the Clifton version of a greasy spoon, although you can be assured this is no Tasty Stop à la North Street, although that is a bit of a guilty pleasure, a story that will have to wait for another day.

The decor is clean and bright with a good amount of outdoor seating. The menu is mostly made up of panini and all day breakfast, we went for the small and large full English, with a tea and coffee. 
Cafe Cosmopolitan Bristol
Large Full English
Cafe Cosmopolitan Bristol
My Smaller Full English
 Apart from, what my sister would call butter bombs, warm bread with butter only smeared on the middle like a bomb of butter has fallen on it, the breakfast was really good. Admittedly it was no Rosemarino level breakfast in terms of flavour but as a standard full English I was very happy. The sausages were meaty and of good quality, the bacon and fried egg were perfectly cooked and none of the items were greasy so it didn't feel really unhealthy afterwards. 
Breakfast in Bristol Cafe Cosmopolitan Bristol
Breakfast Extreme Close Up
If you are passing the area and are low on funds but high on hunger check out Cafe Cosmopolitan, a small full English is only £4.95 and a large a mere £1 more and you get a cup of tea or coffee thrown in. Top marks all round.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Pre Zoo Dim Sum at London Jade Garden

This week I took a well deserved Monday off to go to London and see my friend Kathryn for a day of fun in honour of her birthday a few weeks back. We planned to do a few things but the two main items on our list were dim sum in Chinatown and London Zoo. I had asked the advice of my lovely London foodie friend Julia about good dim sum, she recommended London Jade Garden on Wardour St. also Royal China which is near Baker St. was praised even higher.

So Kat and I took the tube down to Piccadilly and went in search of those wonderful Chinese morsels.  London Jade Garden was extremely easy to find, which was encouraging as there are so many restaurants in Chinatown that it can be hard to locate the one you are actually looking for.
London Jade Garden
Decorated with dark woods, old Chinese photographs and pictures and smatterings of gold you will also get the benefit of proper tablecloths, something my mum is often quick to point out when we go out to dine. Chinese tea was waiting for us as soon as we sat down, at 50p a pop for a big pot, this is a bargain and perfectly cuts through the richness of the dim sum. We ordered 7 dishes between us and waited as patiently as two hungry people could manage.
London Jade Garden
Very Fluffy Char Siu Bao
London Jade Garden
Har Gau Dumplings
London Jade Garden
Siu Mai and Squid Rings
I will keep this brief but the dim sum was excellent, definitely some of the best siu mai I have had and the pork buns were super fluffy and well filled. The fried prawn dumplings were a bit different to what I have had before the only real way to describe them is like a pasty but with batter instead of pastry. The turnip cake is something I am slightly addicted to it's slightly sweet, pretty moreish but I know it won't be for everyone, but if you are adventurous give it a go.  Definitely head to London Jade Garden if you fancy a cheap lunch this only cost us £11 each, and the service was quick and efficient.  I could have eaten more but London Zoo awaited so decided to hold back a little, but I definitely have a dim sum addiction forming.
London Jade Garden
Fried Prawn Dumpings with Salad Cream Dip
London Jade Garden
Turnip Cake, (although really it is made with shredded Chinese radish)
 Next couple of blogs will hopefully include breakfast at Cosmopolitan, wine, cheese and nibbles at The Kensington Arms and dinner at Noa. Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend people, got any good food plans in the pipeline?  In the mean time enjoy this photo Kathryn took of some lemurs.
London Zoo Lemurs
London Zoo Lemurs

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Mini Visit to Cordial & Grace

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon, no change for our current Summer, and we had arranged to go for a tea with Boz and Jamie in Clifton Village. Tentatively heading to Boston Tea Party, we met there and it was packed, finding a spot for tea in Clifton at the weekend can sometimes be a mission. We passed by Cordial & Grace and it did not look quite as busy so we decided to chance it.

A really sweet cafe especially if you are into crafts. They have lots of sewing nights and craft workshops for you to join in on. Really gives the place a homey feel, very kitsch and girly, the boys didn't look super comfortable surrounded by all the cuteness but I loved it.
Cordial and Grace
Craft Table at Cordial & Grace
Cordial and Grace
Crafty Wall

I ordered a pot of chai tea and some Welsh rarebit crumpets whilst everyone else had a cold drink from their selection of coolers on the menu. My tea rocked up with a super twee cup and saucer, which I loved because by looking at other tables not all the cups were the same and I actually really like it when crockery doesn't match. The tea also came with an egg timer to show when my tea would be properly brewed and ready to drink, which was a nice touch, shows the venue cares about a good cuppa.
Cordial and Grace
Kitsch Tea Cup of Joy
Cordial and Grace Bristol
My Welsh rarebit crumpets arrived and smelt delicious, which was exactly what they turned out to be. Grain mustard and strong cheese oozed from every little mini cave that make crumpets so special. I do not know what they did to these crumpets but they were fantastic, most satisfying savoury afternoon treat I have had the fortune of tasting.
Cordial and Grace Bristol
Welsh Rarebit Topped Crumpets
Perfect little independent tea venue with the personal touch great for a rainy afternoon catch up with friends definitely check it out if you are in the area I definitely plan on returning to sample some of their delicious looking cakes. For information on sewing meet ups or just a look at their tea, cake and general food menu check out their website.
Obligatory Pinky Out 

Friday, 17 August 2012

Lazy Sunday Pizzas at The Hill

A couple of Sundays ago Rich and I decided to have dinner at The Hill with our voucher, co-won with team Wuthering Bites at the bar's Speedquizzing event which occurs every Monday.  That's right 'Getting Quizzy With It', won 3rd place that week and we were proud. The Hill pizza menu is pretty extensive, lots of random  and non traditional toppings like jerk chicken, hoisin duck and onion bhaji, but they also do burgers, flat breads and salads.

It was fairly quiet when we arrived some Olympics on in the background and chirpy bar staff. We decided with the voucher that we would treat ourselves to a bottle of wine and quickly picked our pizzas. Rich went for the crispy duck and hoisin and I went for the Verona which was prosciutto, mushrooms, sweetcorn and Parmesan. The staff at The Hill were lovely, really sweet and friendly, which always adds a little extra to the pub experience.
Duck and Hoisin with Cucumber and Spring Onion
The Verona
These were by no means terrible pizzas the prosciutto on mine was particularly tasty as was the tomato sauce. I would just put them on the level of, nice and alright. The edges were really quite dry where the toppings had not been pushed out enough to the edges and the sweetcorn on mine was pretty stale. Rich's pizza, for a duck pizza was actually not at all dry which was pretty encouraging, but the cucumber was a bit too chunky. I think after the Beerd prosciutto, artichoke, mushroom and olive pizza, which is heavenly, I have been rather spoilt, that's right I have become a pizza diva.
Hoisin and Duck, close up
The Verona in detail
The base was nice and thin on the pizzas however and I think that if I had pizza here again I would go for a simpler topping. I would be interested in trying other items on their menu, but it probably would not be my first choice for pizza. Check out Speedquizzing on Mondays, probably the most frustrating yet competitively entertaining quiz you'll come across. To see details of The Hill check out their website.

Monday, 13 August 2012

A Thursday Night Out at Bistro Biere (now closed)

It was an extremely rainy Thursday evening in Bristol, the British Summer we have grown to expect, and we were dodging the raindrops to meet our friend Claire at the recently renamed Bistro Biere, or The Clifton Kitchen as was. We were the only customers for about half an hour then it really started to fill up, this place was popular possibly because Monday-Thursday you can get 3 courses for £20 which is a real steal, plus you can bring your own bottle, for a corkage charge.

Rich ordered us a bottle of Prosecco, it had been a crap day with rubbish weather so a little sparkle always cheers. The light in restaurant was low and lots of candles dotted about made it a really relaxing atmosphere, perfect for an impromptu romantic evening.
Bistro Biere Bristol

We all thought in such bad weather to go for all three courses, comforting ourselves with food it didn't take me long to decide what to choose. The menu consisted of about 4 choices for each course which certainly helps me decide quicker, large amounts of choice on a menu tends to make me extremely indecisive. I went for wild mushrooms on toast with a poached egg and smoked salmon. Mushrooms, particularly wild ones, are a bit of a weakness. Claire chose Coquille St. Jacques and Rich a duck pate.
Bistro Biere Bristol
Wild Mushroom Starter
Bistro Biere Bristol
Coquille St. Jacques
Bistro Biere Bristol
Duck Liver Parfait with Smoked Ham
Got to say the food really knocked me for six I wasn't sure what to expect but it was really delicious. Those mushrooms were fragrant and full of flavour and Claire's coquille was creamy, rich and melted in the mouth, perfection. Claire and I both went for the guinea fowl for our main because we'd never had it before and it came with more mushrooms, what can I say I am obsessed with good mushrooms. Rich opted for the steak and frites, which was going to be my second choice, being the steak fanatic I am.
Bistro Biere Bristol
Guinea Fowl with Crushed Potatoes and Mushroom Sauce
Bistro Biere Bristol
Steak Frites and Fresh Béarnaise
Bistro Biere Bristol
Seasonal Veg
The sauce on our guinea fowl was wonderful, really complimented the meat. The guinea fowl itself, though well cooked, it wasn't astounding enough a meat to warrant me ordering it again, not quite chicken and not quite duck flavoured enough. I would if faced with guinea fowl on a menu again I would probably bypass it, it was tasty but not quite different enough for me to deviate from duck. Rich's steak was a wonderful piece of meat really naturally full of flavour and cooked to perfection, rare, but the only criticism was that it was a tad over salted but the béarnaise was one of the best I've tasted.

We were all pretty full but you know once you are tempted with the dessert menu it is hard to say no. Normally I would go straight for the crème brûlée but I saw peach crumble with crème anglaise and as you rarely see peach desserts and I love peaches it won me over. Claire meanwhile had the chocolate orange tart and Rich the cheese plate.
Bistro Biere Bristol
Peach Crumble
Bistro Biere Bristol
Chocolate Orange Tart
Bistro Biere Bristol
Cheese Plate
I was a little disappointed with my peach crumble, the skins on the peaches were a little tough after being cooked so probably would have been best skinless but the crumble and crème anglaise were some of the best I've had. Claire's chocolate tart was rich and decadent, I definitely wouldn't have been able to manage it myself, but I am not known for my tolerance of sugar, that is Rich's skill. Rich in a change from the usual went for the cheese plate, which was very generous and filling.

 It was almost like dining in the home of a friend, albeit one who could make multiple dishes at once, when our glasses of Prosecco or Malbec were in danger of hitting a low point they were topped up. The service was second to none, one lovely man attending to all the tables and he did a superior job, very attentive and detailed. We were impressed. For more information on Bistro Biere visit their website.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Blogger Meet Up: Atomic Burger

Rich gives the low down on our blogger meet up trip to newly opened Atomic Burger on Gloucester Road.

Atomic Burger is another in the growing field of 'gourmet burger' restaurants, with this particular addition having started in Oxford, and now with a new branch opening its doors in Bristol. What sets Atomic Burger aside from the competitors however is that it is going for a definite different angle, and this time that angle is fun. And it works. As soon as you're within ten feet of the restaurant you'll be struck by the sheer amount of sci-fi, 80's TV series', kids cartoons and other nostalgic fun stuff plastering the walls and decorating the ceilings. The big kid in you will love it. It doesn't stop there either. The huge array of delicious sounding burgers are given great names, including the Chuck Norris, the Dolly Parton, the Johnny Cash, and the Smokey And The Bandit, and everything just gives across a really enjoyable vibe.
Atomic Burger Bristol

The staff in Atomic Burger are incredibly friendly, very helpful and almost a rarity for such a venue, actually know about everything on the menu and will do anything they can to accommodate you. If you were going to judge a place entirely on the staff, then this place gets a 9 out of 10. The selection of drinks is good too, offering all the usual, but also adding root beer to the mix (which I tried, but to me still tastes like mouthwash and coke), some great milkshakes and some classic American beers.

But we weren't here for any of these. No, we were here for the food. And aside from burgers there are some nice starters on offer. We ordered the tater tots (potato croquettes wrapped in bacon, smothered in cheese and covered in jalapenos) and some cajun buffalo wings. The buffalo wings here come in a selection of nine different flavours, starting at plain, then cooked in maple syrup, then going hotter and spicier right up to covered in ghost chilli, and they look great. Our cajun ones never arrived sadly, but a dining companion had the maple syrup ones which were just delicious, and best of all even if you order just the smallest size you still get a decent number of them (in this case £5 for 10).
Atomic Burger Bristol
Scooby Snack Tater Tots
The tater tots though were a little disappointing. Potato croquettes, bacon, cheese and jalapeno - what's not to like? And yet, they just tasted a little bland and uninteresting. The jalapenos were surprisingly peppy, but the cheese and the croquettes were really very by-the-numbers. So starters a bit of a mixed bag, and taken just at mine and Abby's order, not very good at all. Two starters, one disappointing, and one failing to make an appearance. Sheer joy at the Star Wars toys and by now four beers kept me buoyant and looking forward to the main event.

Abby's main event, after much indecision, turned out to be The Jake & Elwood (that's The blues Brothers to those not in the know) - a beef burger covered in blue cheese, bacon and onions, although Abby was happily able to substitute her onion for onion rings. My main after even greater indecision (after a week of thought I'd settled on four) was The Mel Brooks - beef covered in thinly sliced salt beef, Swiss cheese, thousand island sauce and gherkin. Both sound delicious and have me salivating even just at the thought of it right now.

There was a fair amount of salivating too, as things took quite a while longer to arrive than we hoped I guess because we were a big group. They were even turning other customers away, the rest of the restaurant was full, news had clearly travelled extremely fast.

Abby's burger she described as not being meaty enough, whether that was down to it arriving well done or lack of seasoning I am not sure, there was also hardly any blue cheese. The onion rings however were described as really delicious and very crunchy. 
Atomic Burger Bristol
Jake & Elwood 
Atomic Burger Bristol
Jake & Elwood
Atomic Burger Bristol
Mel Brooks
My Mel Brooks burger then. Hit and miss, but definitely more hit. The burger itself was more well-done that I'd have liked (or indeed ordered) but was tasty and chewy, and the salt beef on top (basically a whole pack of pastrami) was a brilliant and tasty topping. The thousand island sauce worked a treat too, especially when alongside the Swiss cheese, and with the gherkin it as almost a perfect taste sensation.But it wasn't perfect though.

Aside from the overdone burger, the sauce on top was too sparse and every now and then you'd get a bite where there just wasn't any at all, and that was massively disappointing. Bizarrely too rather than slice the tomato and gherkin that comes in your burger, everything comes in cubes and chunks. This means that as soon as you have bite number one half the burger salad falls out onto the plate. Also I'm a traditionalist - I like my gherkin sliced thanks.
Atomic Burger Bristol
Jake & Elwood close up
Another annoyance, and one that was shared with a lot of our other dining friends, was the actual bun used for the burgers. Some people didn't like the texture and feel of the bun, saying it felt and tasted cheap, while our gluten free friends said their non-gluten buns were great. And while I agree, my biggest problem with the bun was just how quickly the thing disintegrated in my hands. After only having had one-third of the burger, things got a bit sloppy and very messy.

There are two types of fries you can order at Atomic Burger, standard and Sci Fries. Both are double fried with skin on but the Sci Fries have a chilli rub on them. We both ordered the Sci Fries and Abby in particular loved them, they were crunchy and with a slow gentle heat behind them, best fries she'd had in a while. 

My first time at Atomic Burger then was a bit of a mixed bag. The staff were brilliant and some of the food was very good indeed. But while it's a new place, so some things can be put down to teething troubles, it really was a combination of some things being done really well, and others failing horribly. Some bland food, skimping on some of the dressings, the cheapest quality buns, and a missing starter really brought down the whole meal.
Atomic Burger Bristol
Atomic Burger Mural (Photo courtesy of Wuthering Bites)
And as much as I had a good time with the party we had with us, and all the interesting talking points (a video of the terrible 1970's Spiderman was hilariously great) we went for an awesome burger, and well, it wasn't. And I was pretty disappointed - pretty much like the kid who wanted a Super Nintendo for Christmas, but instead ended up with an Amstrad. I've heard other people have better experiences, and others have worse, so maybe things will improve. I really hope they do, as the place has the potential and I really really wanted to like it, but I didn't.

My go to burger still remains The Burger Joint, which benefits from having excellent food, good service, decent prices and the brilliant Sara (possibly the greatest waitress ever, certainly the only one who brightens your day by just saying hello). Also, their burgers don't turn to mush in your hands. I'd definitely give Atomic Burger another chance too, further down the line when they are a bit more established. To view all the choices Atomic Burger has to offer visit their website.

To get a gluten free perspective of our visit check out Wuthering Bites' review.

Monday, 6 August 2012

A Friday Night Curry at the Kohi-Noor

A few weeks back we decided to go for a curry and as Phil and Jamie are our resident curry experts I let them choose. Phil chose recently awarded Kohi-Noor for our trip and here is what he found.

One can go and see the Kohi-Noor diamond at the Tower of London, set front and centre on the Queen Mother's crown. Whilst its appropriation from Punjab in 1849 was by no means the most significant event arising from our colonial ambitions, it remains to this day a symbolic one. Against a backdrop of English Defence League protests in Bristol, it felt like an appropriate evening to celebrate the benefits that multiculturalism has brought to our nation's dinner tables. 

Kohi-Noor the restaurant serves contemporary Indian cuisine from a smart premisis in the northern climbs of Whiteladies Road. It was recently awarded the title of Best Indian in the Bristol Good Food Awards, which piqued our collective interest and warrented a gentle climb up Blackboy Hill. 

So what of the food? In a word: excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the Lal Mass; the tenderest of lamb pieces coated in a beautifully rich tomato based sauce, the tartness of which was offset by a melange of spices and chilli that livened the senses without numbing the palate. I also enjoyed the Mixed Daal; sweet, creamy and colourful, delicately finished with potent shavings of caramalized garlic. Of the other dishes sampled the starter of Adraki Lamb Chops were a real standout, once again very tendor and beautifully seasonsed. The Garlic Chilli Chicken was also tasty, if not quite hot enough for this writer's palate.

Adraki Lamb Chops
Romal Chicken
Lamb Lal Mass
Chicken Tikka Masala
Mixed Daal
Garlic Chilli Chicken

As ever, there is still some room for improvement. The obligatory papadoms were not particularly fresh tasting, and their accomanying chutnies relatively bland. The service was also not quite up to the standard of the food, a little rough around the edges. Quite unlike the Kohi-Noor diamond, one imagines. To check out the menu of the Kohi-Noor visit their website it has a few different choices to the usual Indian restaurant which are definitely worth a look.

Thanks Phil it really was one of the best curry's I've had in a while but am looking forward to our next curry testing. Upcoming reviews this week and next include, Bistro Biere, Atomic Burger, Cordial and Grace and The Hill.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Food Blogger Meet Up: The Bird in Hand

A few weeks ago myself and some fellow bloggers, Bristol Bites, The Awkward Eater and Wuthering Bites were fortunate enough to be invited by the lovely Catherine from Red Cherry to sample the menu at The Bird in Hand pub in Long Ashton. An off shoot of restaurant/pub The Pump House in Hotwells, The Bird in Hand is more like it's casual, rustic cousin.
Bird in Hand Long Ashton
The pub is right on a main road which I was not expecting but you walk in at it's nicely decorated with some old adverts and it definitely feels like a classic country pub. The menu was fairly small with about 5-6 choices to choose from for each course, you can mostly forget the pub food classics this menu was gastro pub dining and then some.

I was tempted by the mussels as a starter but with my main already in sight I decided to go for something a bit lighter so opted for the Bulls Heart Tomato with Goats Curd. Gloriously creamy the goats curd did not disappoint the tomatoes were fragrant and well matched, my main gripe was the herb, which I think was tarragon, it did not match or compliment the dish at all, I found myself picking most of it out. Other than that it was really delicious and I would definitely order it again.
Bird in Hand Long Ashton
Bulls Heart Tomatoes with Goats Curd
Bird in Hand Long Ashton
Bristol Bites opted for White Bait
For my main I chose Honey Roast Rare Duck Breast with Stuffing, Potato Cake and Bread Sauce. This was delicious the duck was very pink, just how it should be, and the stuffing ball was particularly good as it seemed to be of the pork and sage type variety. As my mum will tell you I get a bit possessive at Christmas over the stuffing, done well pork, sage and chestnut stuffing is heavenly and which is why I find myself guarding and rationing the leftovers a bit too aggressively. My only tiny criticism is the inclusion of bread sauce, horrible stuff even though Rich and a few other people seem to think it's accompaniment of the gods, does it belong beside duck?
Bird in Hand Long Ashton
Honey Roast Duck with Potato Cake and Stuffing

Duck is more filling than it looks and I was considering the possibility of pudding. I was eventually swayed by the fact everyone else was eager for a sugar hit and opted for the sticky toffee pudding.Usually a pudding in the top 5 of my favourite puddings, as long as you lump it in with syrup sponge pudding as a tie, it can easily be dry and disappointing. It was not the case here, the sticky toffee pudding was luscious and wonderfully indulgent with a nicely rich toffee sauce. 
Sticky Toffee Pudding
Eton Mess
Buttermilk & Elderflower Pudding with Summer Fruits
All in all the Bird in Hand does good food but I would argue the prices might be a tiny bit steep for some people and particularly a village pub type place. But the choices are definitely a bit different compared to your usual pub grub so if you find yourself looking for something a bit different check it out. For more information check their website.

The food was complimentary on this visit but I shall not bow to any sponsor, thus as usual, it is all my own views and personal thoughts.