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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Tudor Evening at The Star and Dove

The Star and Dove in Totterdown are doing something a bit different this year for Christmas. Amongst other things they are offering a Tudor feast for people to try out, complete with Tudor decorations. Upstairs in The Dining Room they are also offering food from Tudor to the Victorian age themed menu in the evening which offers much for the adventurous eater. We were invited, along with some other bloggers and foodies from the area to sample some of the creations they had been concocting. 
Tudor decorated tables
Potatoes in Edible Clay
The food was unlike anything I had tasted before, some of the paring were rather unusual but definitely interesting, with mullets in gravy, crab surrounded by hippocras jelly, wonderful sea bream in sweet wine, tasting rather like teriyaki marinade, and of course Tudor mulled wine, or as it's known, Hippocras. This was nicer than any standard mulled wine it can be served hot or cold, we had it cold this time. It was made with white wine and spices, of which I shall provide the recipe which has been passed on from The Star and Dove, and was so delicate and deliciously perfumed I could have drank a whole tank of the stuff. My favourite food item of the night was the dessert, baked orange custard, it was creamy and spiced with a hint of orange brought out as frosted miniature oranges, perfection.

So if you fancy something a bit different this year check out the Star and Dove's festive offering, it's a really lovely pub, especially in Winter with it's fires. And without further ado here is the recipe to make your own Hippocras, makes a nice change to regular mulled wine, much lighter, especially if made with white wine. I personally would make it with white wine and served chilled to bring out the perfume of all the spices. 


1 Bottle of white wine such as chardonnay or good red claret
10g whole cinnamon
5g fresh ginger, peeled and sliced thin
0.5g crushed fresh nutmeg
6 cloves
100g caster sugar
3g grains of paradise (available here)
2 fresh bay leaves
1g dried long pepper, crushed
1 small sprig fresh rosemary

Place all ingredients in a non-metallic bowl. preferably tupperware with a lid and leave to stand covered at room temperature for 24 hours. Then pass the ingredients through a muslin cloth and chill. Serve chilled or if you are feeling the cold warm it up and snuggle under a blanket.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Birthday Celebrations at Rice and Things

Last weekend was Carla's birthday celebration. She had picked Rice and Things, for a Jamaican feast. Before we left Rich and I were Googling for a menu and the one thing that came up most was the association with Jamie Oliver, who deemed the chef here to be one of the best he'd come across. Not that Oliver's opinion matters a whole lot to me either way but this only heightened the curiosity. Rich and I took the walk from our flat to Cheltenham road, me with a twisted ankle (yes I am a brave soldier) and in about 25 minutes we had arrived.

We had already talked about getting a set menu so we could sample a number of dishes between the 8 of us,  and as the second set menu had pretty much all the classics on it it was an easy decision to make. They have a good selection of rum based cocktails which I had on good authority as being fairly strong. I chose to have wine whilst Rich went for beer.
Rice and Things Bristol
Ackee and Saltfish
Chicken at Rice and Things Bristol
Spring Village Fried Chicken
Our dishes also consisted of jerk chicken, goat curry and a slow cooked beef stew that was a substitute for peppered steak, as well as the above fried chicken, saltfish and ackee all served with well loved rice and peas. Having never had ackee and saltfish I wasn't sure what to expect. Although the saltfish was a strong flavour it was balanced out by the spices and ackee, it kind of reminded me a little of kedgeree in it's flavours, I was converted. The jerk chicken was spicier than I'd had before but so flavoursome, the heat stayed with you for minutes afterwards but was perfectly juicy coming off the drumsticks. 

Rice and Things Bristol
Slow Cooked Beef Stew
I am not sure I could pick a favourite dish to be honest they all had their merits. The fried chicken, beef stew, which just fell apart in the mouth, and the jerk chicken possibly topped it for me. But it was great to finally eat more than a mouthful or two of goat curry, rather too fatty for me to order on it's own but it had great depth of flavour that was wonderful when combined with the rice and peas. 
Rice and Things Bristol
The proof is in the empty plates
All in all you would be hard pushed to get better comfort food than the dishes that were served up to us. Warming, spicy dishes that were pretty much a hug on a plate, the place might be a little home spun but that is all part of it's charm. With giant portions and our whole table sharing, family style, it was a great evening out and I am looking forward to returning. Check out what else they serve at Rice and Things on their website.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Latin Dining at Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina

Thursday evening the temperature had dropped, heading ever so closer to the minuses of December. Rich and I headed to Las Iguanas for dinner, having been invited to check out what they had done with the place. Las Iguanas, a business that started in Bristol to much success, reaching almost 30 restaurants around the country. They have revamped the original Whiteladies branch as Clifton Cocina, a place where they return to their roots and go about testing new dishes, you can expect more specials and basically it's a bit more experimental.
Honestly Las Iguanas beforehand had never really been my favourite chain restaurant so it was not one I visited very often before, but I am happy to report this change to Clifton Cocina has definitely been for the better. With a more condensed but ever changing menu it has given a more independent and personal touch. We started off with some dark and stormy cocktails, a personal favourite, cannot resist anything ginger based, served in jar type glasses which I absolutely fell in love with. 
Dark and Stormy cocktail Bristol
Dark and Stormies
The restaurant was pretty steady for a Thursday evening, which was encouraging and with the samba music playing softly across the room it gave the place a really nice warm atmosphere. Rich and I chose honey peri peri chicken wings and calamari for our starters and happily sipped at our cocktails whilst we waited. 
Las Iguanas Bristol
Calamari with Aioli
Las Iguanas Bristol
Honey Peri Peri Wings
The calamari were some of the best I've had in a while, coated in cassava, or tapioca to you and me, it was light and crunchy whilst the squid was soft but not rubbery or chewy. The chicken wings were fairly meaty and the sauce was sweet but also had a slight kick and a zingyness. Not quite as good as the chicken wings they serve in the newly located Burger Joint, nothing can top those, but they were very tasty indeed.  For our mains I picked bahia moqueca, a thick spicy sauce with tomato and coconut which I chose to have with white fish and peeled prawns, whilst Rich went for steak fajitas and a side order of patatas bravas.
Bahia Moqueca
Fried Plantain and Fragrant Rice
Steak Fajitas
I rarely order fish out, and this time I fancied trying something I normally wouldn't think to. I was pleasantly surprised by the bahia moqueca, the fish was not overcooked and the spices were subtle but blended nicely. Having the finely milled dried coconut to sprinkle on top was a nice touch and added some extra texture. My only gripe is that the prawns were a bit chewy, the surprise appearance of crayfish saved this, I think possibly they should consider substituting all the prawns for crayfish in the future as it worked better with the sauce and texture of the fish, in my opinion.

The steak in the fajitas was extremely plentiful and well flavoured plus it was cooked rare as requested, we didn't really need the patatas side order, but they had a nice heat to them and are always a favourite. By this point we were pretty full but we checked out the dessert menu anyway.  The special dessert paselinhos (or banoffee tart) sounded too good to skip so I ordered it and Rich went for an affogato which came with a couple of churros on the side. The tart arrived with a little face on it, unfortunately the pastry was a bit too thick and dry and the filling not quite up to scratch so I left most of it. The crowning glory here was the banana flavoured ice cream, a rare flavour indeed but a treat if you can get it. Rich's affogato had a scoop of toffee ice cream and it was highly praised.
Banoffee Tart
All in all Clifton Cocina has really upped it's game I was impressed with the standard of food and service. Jimmy, who runs the show here, knows his stuff and his enthusiasm and cheer was infectious. I am looking forward to seeing what new dishes unfold over the upcoming months.

As invited guests of Las Iguanas Clifton Cocina our meal was complimentary but as usual I was not influenced by what to write. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chinese Feasting at The Mayflower

I have lived in Bristol nearly five years and never been to the Mayflower. I have heard so much about it since knowing of it's existence that I was well over due a visit. Sarah had set up our monthly foodies meet up dinner for the Mayflower, it seemed to take ages for Friday to come round but finally it did. The Mayflower is hidden under the Beefeater and next to the Bearpit if you take the subway, a little secret restaurant hidden from passing trade view. I invited Jamie to join our party and promised her she could order for Rich and I as she was the expert, plus I wanted to try some new and authentic dishes. Jamie had already praised the Mayflower as the place to go in Bristol to get authentic Cantonese dishes so I knew I was in for a treat.
The Mayflower Bristol
Sizzling Beef (ordered by one of our party)
As in some of the bigger Chinese restaurants there are both English and Chinese menus, the Mayflower excels in it's Chinese menu, here you can get many Southern Chinese delights including a good variety of hot pot dishes. We were all pretty hungry by this point so a hush descended over the table whilst we studied the four page menu. Jamie helped with some of the menu details and after about 20 minutes everyone had come to a decision so I sat back and sipped my Chinese tea whilst I waited.
The Mayflower Bristol
Three Roasties
Jamie had ordered; three roasties, salt and pepper squid, tung choy in Malaysian sauce and an oyster and pork belly hot pot. I'd had three roasties before at Dynasty and the squid was my one stipulation to the meal because I adore it. Three roasties comprises of honey roast pork, pork belly and roasted duck served with rice and this was the best I have tasted, really well flavoured meats and crispy skin on the duck. The only warning I have is this is served at room temperature so don't be surprised when it does not turn up hot.

Tung choy is a semi-aquatic tropical plant, known as water spinach in English. Definitely one of Jamie's favourites from home where she knows it as morning glory. So obviously there were a number of titters round the table when it rocked up announced as such. The Malaysian style sauce it was served in was made from fermented tofu paste and was totally delicious. I wanted to try something new and this was definitely new. 
The Mayflower Bristol
Tung Choy
The Mayflower Bristol
Salt and Pepper Squid with Chilli Salt
The Mayflower serves the best salt and pepper squid I've had. It was crispy and not in any way rubbery, it has recently become one of my favourite dishes to order and this was the pinnacle of my recent foray into this dish. Finally the hot pot, this was also something completely new and the variety of different ones you can get at The Mayflower is great, anything from fish belly and tofu to stewed beef brisket. I was slightly dubious of the oysters after my first introduction into the world of oysters two years or so ago I was pretty sick the next day. Since then never has a oyster passed my lips. However these were cooked with a light batter so I was willing to give them a go. I was glad I did because they tasted very different hot. The sauce in the hot pot was light, giving the tender pork belly and oysters a chance to shine I would love to try some different hot pots in the future the brisket one on the menu here sounds particularly delicious.
The Mayflower Bristol
Oyster and Pork Belly Hot Pot 
The Mayflower may not be fancy inside but the food it serves is first rate. There were sounds of happy munching at our table for many minutes it was definitely some of the best Chinese food I have experienced probably ever. I look forward to returning, especially with Jamie, who is my secret weapon. Rather randomly The Mayflower is open until 3am most evenings so if you have a late night hankering, this is not a problem. To check out some of the many other dishes served at The Mayflower check out their website

Friday, 9 November 2012

La Panameña Celebrates Day of the Flag

Last Sunday Rich and I trooped along to 40 Alfred Place for a pop up restaurant lunch. La Panameña is the brain child of blogger and Panamanian Carla from Can Be Bribed With FoodLa Panameña was celebrating Panama's flag day or Día de la Bandera, Panama's independence from Colombia. This was my first time to 40 Alfred Place and I can tell you after this it won't be my last. It has a real charm to it that is just like dining in someone's house. Greeted by yellow banners and photographs from Panama it definitely took you out of such a grey day in Bristol even if it was just for a couple of hours.
40 Alfred Place
La Panameña's home made hot sauce
Keep an eye out for upcoming events from La Panameña because I can tell you now that you will need to snap up places for the next one quickly, the food was just that good. I'm not going to go into too much detail, I will let the photos do that but it was warming, comforting and wonderfully flavoured probably one of my most enjoyable meals of the year because it was so relaxed and tasty. With a real family atmosphere this felt like a real celebration and I wasn't even from Panama but I wanted to get up celebrate and dance to the Latin American music that floated through the venue, the sense of belonging was just amazing, it also helps if you are greeted with a rum punch as you arrive.
La Panamena Bristol
Tazita de Guacho
First presented with a taster, Tazita de Guacho, or rice beans and pork soup a wonderfully comforting and fresh tasting soup that was full of flavour but also super nutritious, almost like you could feel it battling the Winter illnesses as you ate it. Carla has put the recipe up on her blog if you are interested in making it for yourself. Starters were brought out of Ceviche de Pescado Blanco and Patacones, basically a fresh raw sea bream with tomatos, onions and cashews marinaded in lime juice and fresh coriander served with a side of green fried plantain.

What was really sweet was that knowing I dislike fresh coriander (it tastes like soap to me, apparently this is a genetic thing) I was brought a dish of my own without coriander. This really touched me I remember mentioning it months ago and unprompted (I would never have asked) I got my own portion to share with Rich. Details like this really make a meal extra special. The ceviche was gorgeous, so fresh and cleansing, perfect with the rich plantain and the home made yellow hot sauce went perfectly, I've been told that bottles of it will be on sale at the next event, this stuff is a revelation. 
Latin American Food Bristol
Ceviche (minus the coriander)
Latin American Food Bristol
Ceviche and fried plantain
Latin American Food Bristol
Beef Tasajo in Tomato and Coconut Sauce
La Panamena Bristol
Beef Tasajo Served with Rice and Peas
The mains were served in big enamel pots so we could serve ourselves, family style. The crowning glory of the meal for me was the beef tasajo. A slow cooked stew of locally sourced beef shin in a smoky tomato and coconut sauce. Even writing about it now is making my mouth water. The beef fell apart and was so full of flavour this was the recipe we were all begging for by the end of the lunch. Although closely followed by the slow cooked chicken cassarole which had lots of olives and capers in it which gave it a tangy edge, I also want to make this to perk up dark Sunday nights. 
Latin American Food Bristol
Chicken Cassarole
Latin American Food Bristol
Tres Leches Cake with Dulce de Leche Dip
Tres Leches Cake, is one that has been soaked in three different milks, but the cake is not soggy it has just absorbed all the flavour like a sponge. Not like any cake I've ever had, it was almost like a baked cheesecake and cake hybrid and with a wonderfully smooth caramel, I absolutely loved it. More please! Check out Wuthering Bites' take on the event for gluten free.

So definitely snap up places for the next La Panameña event because you will not be disappointed with the food, better than a lot of restaurants I have been too I left with warmth in my belly and an ignited passion for newly discovered Latin American food and that can only be a good thing. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Experimental Pumpkin Soup

Each year I carve a small pumpkin for Halloween and each year I let it glow for too many days and then end up having to throw it out. Not this year though, this year I was determined to make something of my spooky orange friend. One of my Twitter followers sent me an amazing recipe from the Riverford website for a Mexican style pumpkin soup full of beans and spices, topped with crunchy tortilla chips, check the recipe out here. Unfortunately the mini supermarket on my route home was lacking in the ingredients I required so I quickly changed tactics and made up a recipe to try in my head. 

Halloween Bristol

Halloween Bristol
Pumpkin's Grisly End
After chopping the pumpkin into chunks I popped it in a roasting tin and drizzled some olive oil over it as well as sprinkling over paprika, cumin and chilli powder, plus some fresh thyme for measure. I roasted it for about 20 minutes until the skin underneath was starting to wrinkle up. The lovely darkening orange of the pumpkin after cooking is pure Autumn. I let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes then peeled off all the skin. 
Roasted Pumpkin
Roasted Pumpkin
Whilst the pumpkin was cooling I fried a small diced onion plus 2 cloves of garlic and once that was softened added two thirds of a pack of smoked bacon lardons. I then added almost 2 pints of vegetable stock, although chicken would have worked too, it was just what I found first in the cupboard, and popped the pumpkin back in. I added 2 teaspoons of chipotle paste, chilli flakes, cayenne pepper and more paprika and cumin and let it cook down for 15 minutes or so. Meanwhile I fried the rest of the lardons until they were crispy and then I added a couple of table spoons of pouring cream before blitzing the soup with my hand blender. I served the crispy lardons on top of the soup before finishing with a dash of cream on top.
Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Smoky Spiced Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin Soup Recipe
Less neat but with fresh Thyme on top
My Australian friend Kathryn, now residing in London, asked me a few months ago whether our supermarkets tend to stock pumpkins any other time than Halloween like they do in Australia. As far as we have found the end of October is the only time you can get them. It is a shame as this soup had a real warming kick but with a smoky edge that was soften by the cream, I will try it with squash but can't help but feel it might be a bit too sweet. Pumpkins throughout Autumn is what I say!