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Wednesday 29 February 2012

Birthday Food Bonanza at Lahloo Pantry and Wong's

After a 4 day weekend I am back. Had a lovely birthday full of many celebrations, afternoon tea at Lahloo's Pantry with Rich my mum and sister, then dinner at Wongs with Rich and our friend Phil. Monday we went to The Eldon House for the pub quiz and our team won which was very satisfying, however I think the set up with the prizes is a bit stingy.

I had been hunting for a suitable afternoon tea venue in Bristol for a while, being a big tea fan, then after visiting Lahloo for Valentine's Day, the search was over. For £13.50 you get as much tea as you want to sample and two stands of open sandwiches, mini savoury muffins, meringues with sweet pistachio filling, scones and pomegranate and champagne Turkish delight, amongst other things. It was all delicious, my particular favourites were the quails egg and rocket open sandwiches with smoked tea salt but the scones were some of the best I've tasted in a long while.
Tea wise I sampled Smoky and the classic Earl Grey. The Smoky tea was really good it was very strongly smoke flavoured but it went with the egg sandwiches perfectly. Mum opted for afternoon Darjeeling and although she is very particular about the brewing of her tea was extremely complimentary. Lahloo changes it's afternoon tea menu every month, I am almost tempted to book in every month if it continues to be as good as this one was, I cannot wait to see what they come up with next!
 It took me a while to pick a restaurant for my birthday meal. A lot of independent restaurants are not open on Sunday nights which I can see makes sense, but for this occasion it made things a little tricky. I love Asian food particularly so after recommendations from two Malaysian friends I decided to go for Wong's is on Denmark Street, just behind the Hippodrome and I have been curious about it ever since it opened so was looking forward to going.

When we got inside I was surprised by how beautifully decorated it was, all dark woods and gold plus the chairs were like thrones they were enormous. The restaurant was pretty quiet apart from a birthday party near the back. The wine is reasonably priced, many bottles just over the £14 mark and as usual we were all slightly overwhelmed by choice but this is not always a bad thing.

We all had starters Rich went for the lettuce parcels, I went for pork gyoza dumplings and Phil went for the classic spring rolls. The staff were very friendly and attentive and the food arrived promptly, it was well presented and tasted amazing. No greasy overly salty flavours that you can get in some lesser Chinese  takeaways.
For our mains we ordered four dishes to share and some rice. Rich and I chose the honey barbecued pork tenderloin, crispy shredded chilli beef and beef ho-fun noodles, whilst Phil went for the spicy chilli chicken dish. When it arrived it was well presented and the portions were very generous, again I cannot fault the food it was well seasoned, tasty and definitely the best Chinese I have had probably ever. The pork tenderloin was probably my favourite closely followed by the ho-fun noodles, they were so moreish.
Honey Barbecue Pork Tenderloin
Crispy Shredded Chilli Beef
Half way through the Beef Ho-Fun
Spicy Chilli Chicken
I cannot fault the food and friendly service at Wong's however I do have two small complaints. The first is the music, we had Nickelback and Westlife throughout the meal which although I can filter out the latter the former I cannot ignore. It seemed a bit sad to have such a good meal accompanied by intrusive music, why not go for something instrumental? The second gripe is that one of the staff, I assume was one of the co-owners, who was very nice, asked if we wanted tea or coffee, to which we replied no, but then she insisted she would bring us some Chinese green tea on the house, how could we refuse?

The tea was very nice indeed but when the bill finally arrived we noted we had been charged for the tea, we waited a while to ask about this but everyone seemed to have disappeared so we paid and left. As I said these are fairly small things and I would encourage everyone who enjoys good Chinese food to try out Wongs as it is very reasonably priced and the quality is superb. I am really looking forward to going again and trying something new.

Friday 24 February 2012

An Evening at Red Lion Wine House

Rich and I love wine. For me, at least, you can keep your beer any day. I want a nice glass of red, rioja in particular. Rich loves beer too though, mostly wheat German beers like Leffe and his favourite, Franziskaner. So when a Living Social deal came up to try the Red Lion Wine House charcuterie, cheese platters plus wine for two it seemed too good to pass up.

A cold drizzling evening yesterday brought us to the venue, it looked cosy and inviting the camera on my phone does not do well in the dark but you can get the impression from the photo.
Red Lion Wine House Bristol
I completely fell in love with this place soon after sitting down, it was quiet yet hugely relaxing. We both opted for a glass of carmenere which was very nice indeed. They have around 10 wines, red and white by the glass and all at varying prices. For the more keen wine buff they have some a fine wines selection menu, by the glass, to look over.
Red Lion Wine House Bristol
There is a deli counter at the back of the pub so you can go and have a browse at all the wares before you graze. The cheeses are from Trethowan's Dairy and Arch House Deli and some of the meats and pates are from Castellanos. We had 3 cheeses and 3 meats they came on big wooden board served with a mound of bread and oil with a sage herb mix for post oil dipping. Although I loved the brie, the blue was my favourite the Stichelton from Trethowan's Dairy, like stilton but much creamier totally delicious. The cured pork loin rolled in herbs from Castellanos won us over hands down it was luxurious and totally indulgent, easily the best charcuterie I have had in some time. We were also given some french cured sausage and some spiced chorizo, both went with the wine perfectly.
Castellanos Charcuterie

We stayed for another glass of wine, a Malbec this time enjoying the cocktail piano jazz playing in the background. I was quietly buzzing about the Red Lion, it has me very excited. I definitely will be making it one of my new regular haunts it is relaxing enough to make it perfect for a midweek cosy romantic treat but interesting enough for a chilled Friday or Saturday night out with friends.

Sunday I shall be enjoying my actual birthday, finally, with a visit to Lahloo's Pantry for afternoon tea and dinner at Wongs, a first time visit. Cannot wait.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

Pancake Day

Ok so like probably nearly everyone else in the country last night I was making pancakes. I learned very quickly that my frying pan was not really up to the job so the first attempt need to be scraped off the bottom. I switched pans and got the butter nice and hot then we were in business. Savoury pancakes first made up of the ever traditional cheese and ham plus a splash of mustard, we used Emmental and a smoked cheddar and some wafer thin ham. They were very tasty indeed. However I also found pancakes are hard to photograph well, and make look appetising but you will just have to take my word for it.
For the dessert pancakes, although Rich had the most popular lemon and sugar, I bough some caramel dip and cream from Waitrose for mine to experiment with. I did also get some cherry compote but that will have to wait for another time. Rich decided to make his caramel pancake by using the sauce to caramelise the edges of the pancake to they were all chewy. This was sugar overload but it was so good.
This sauce was definitely worth buying it was so rich and indulgent. I shall use it up by making a banoffee pie at some point I expect, so go get some whilst you can. Tomorrow I am hoping to go to the Red Lion Wine House on Worrall Road for cheese, charcuterie and wine as part of my on going Birthday Week (TM)  celebrations will report back if I do. Wongs is the favourited birthday meal destination, let me know if any of you has been. Hope you all had good pancake days share your favourite toppings!

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Jayne Bakes: Lemon Tarts

A guest blog post from my friend Jayne she likes to bake and experiment in the kitchen, it's all very yummy!

Firstly let me introduce myself, my name is Jayne and from time to time I will be writing about my latest adventure in the kitchen on Adventures in Eating. Like Abby I adore food. I will go to restaurants and dissect a dish as though it was my last supper savouring every mouthful and trying my hardest to work out how it’s been seasoned and what exactly is in the said dish.

Sadly unlike Abby, Rich and my boyfriend I am not a terribly great cook.(she is really, she's being modest-Abby) I cook reasonable meals, some times even lovely meals but this has never stopped me from inflicting my friends, family and extended family to my food whenever possible. However, my personal food joy is in baking and making anything sweet related.

This weekend, I attempted making the classic lemon tart. I made five mini tarts in 10cm flan tins and the results were wonderful, I can say this as my boyfriend’s sister informed me it was her best lemon tart yet.

The recipe is a mix of two recipes. The pastry is from AllRecipes and the filling is based on Rachel Allen’s Bake recipe:


For the pastry: 

  • 75g butter
  • 40g icing sugar
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 egg yolk
For the filling
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 lemon, grated zest
  • 125 g caster sugar
  • 150 ml double cream
  • 2 lemons, juice only
  • icing sugar, for dusting
For the pastry: Place the flour, icing sugar in to a bowl and rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs then, using your hands, add just enough egg to bind it together.

With your hands, flatten out the ball of dough until it is about 2cm thick, then wrap it in cling film or place it in a plastic bag and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or, if you are pushed for time, in the freezer for 10–15 minutes, before using.

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

Line a 23cm tart tin with the short crust pastry and cover the base with baking parchment. Fill the tin with baking beans and bake blind for 10-15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment for the last five minutes of baking for a golden crust.

For the filling: Place the eggs, lemon zest and sugar in a bowl and whisk for a couple of minutes until the egg is all broken up.

Add the cream, lemon juice. Mix well; carefully pour the filling into the cooked pastry case.

Reduce the oven temperature to 160C/gas 3 and bake the tart for 30-35 minutes or until the filling has just set in the centre – it should only wobble very slightly when you take it out of the oven.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 15 minutes before removing the tart from the tin and transferring to a plate or cake stand. When it is cool, put a dusting of icing sugar over the top to serve.  



Mmm thanks Jayne yummy! Tonight I shall be making a variety of pancakes tomorrow I shall post how successful I am. Enjoy your pancake day!

Monday 20 February 2012

Party Fun and Hangover Sushi

So this will not be too long a post as this weekend was mostly consumed  by having a wonderful party in the upstairs room of The Park bar on the triangle and then taking nearly 2 days to recover. I did however on Sunday pick up some tickets to the upcoming Bristol Beer Festival next month and head to Obento for some of my favourite sushi. My birthday is on Sunday I am stuck as wear to go for dinner in the evening, any one got any recommendations for some lovely food that is open on a Sunday evening? Post suggestions to the Twitter page or in the comments section of the blog.

In the meantime here is a photo of my sushi. Enjoy. Pancake blog post to follow Wednesday.

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Valentine's Dinner at The Town House

About two weeks ago Rich and I looked through a couple of the Valentine's menus available and decided that The Town House's ticked all our foodie boxes for our night of romance. We were both looking forward to it all day yesterday and to sum up, we were not disappointed.

Rich had already pulled out all the romantic stops with flowers delivered at work and later jewellery so we decided to have a pre dinner cocktail at The Colour Inn to prolong the evening. We've always liked going to The Colour Inn, when it first opened under it's former name it became a bit of a favourite. The cocktails are impressive, the little bowls of cocktail snacks are a nice touch and I find the atmosphere a bit more relaxing than some of the other cocktail bars in the city, you can go there but feel you don't have to dress up quite as much, so perfect for impromptu visits.
Definitely worth a visit to The Colour Inn to brighten up an evening. After a quick cocktail we headed straight to The Town House, it was beautifully decorated with rose petals an all the tables, a lot of candle light and tables far enough away from each other that we could feel we weren't being intruded on by other diners and they in turn would not be by us. There was some lovely jazz lilting quietly in the background, the whole atmosphere felt very vintage and almost from another time.
We had sort of half decided at our first glance of the menu two weeks ago what we wanted to eat but the choices were all very tantalising. In the end we stuck with our choices of the sharing platter for 2 for our starter. The platter had a gorgeously delicious thinly sliced smoked ham, it tasted very much like the German Black Forest ham, very smokey very strongly flavoured and very tasty. Best eaten on it's own as the flavour would over power anything with it. There was a ramekin of chicken liver and port pate, smooth as silk and rich but worked very nicely with the lovely seeded bread that came with it. I particularly enjoyed the shot glass of dip that accompanied the platter, it tasted very nutty I was surprised when I was told it was smoked aubergine, the first time in ages I have enjoyed aubergine. I could go on there was an amazing light hollandaise on the veg, the olives, for me were just perfect and the smoked salmon was wonderful.
For our main course we had chosen the 28 day aged steak for two, cooked rare, triple cooked chips, vegetables, three sauces and a bottle of Malbec, fully of blackberries and a smooth richness. The steak was cooked very well seared fully on the outside but the middle was lovely and pink and the flavour of the meat was superb. The meat was accompanied by peppercorn sauce, béarnaise and what I think was a red wine onion rich gravy type sauce. Chips were crispy but fluffy and the vegetables were very nice with the gravy. I couldn't fault any of it, Rich and I probably should not have eaten it all but it was too good not to.
 By this point I was full, happy and a bit sleepy, the lovely warm feeling you feel after eating such good food and wine. Pudding should not have been on the cards, and yet, without knowing it, had tapped into my Achilles heel, crème brûlée, and it's derivatives. The Town House had cinnamon and nutmeg burnt cream and it was going to be mine. And it was. 
We went home full but happy a very successful Valentine's, easily my best ever in fact. So raise your cocktail glasses, from the wonderful Colour Inn, to the lovely Town House we will be coming back, hopefully for dinner but also brunch, you won't be able to get rid of us.

Monday 13 February 2012

Tea for two at Lahloo Pantry (now closed)

Saturday Rich and I took a trip to Lahloo Pantry in Clifton Village I was very eager to try their Valentine's Day special, wild rose tea. Lahloo Pantry particularly excited me because I do not drink coffee so tea is my caffeinated vice.
Lahloo Pantry
It was quite busy on Saturday afternoon but we were shown to a little table downstairs, after filing past the many delicious looking cakes and open sandwiches on offer. I had already decided on what tea I wanted but was almost swayed by the smoky spiced tea. Rich went for Nokcha, a green tea that was described as; "Uplifting and moreish, this biscuity green tea will brighten up the most challenging of days." As it was almost Valentine's we also decided to treat ourselves to 4 of the pink heart shaped macaroons we had spied on our way in.
Lahloo Tea
Our tea was served in little glass teapots but I noticed a number of the teas had Japanese style black ceramic ones, which I now really want for myself. The wild rose tea smelled ever so subtly of old English roses it was gorgeous and refreshing plus free hot water for re-infusion was available for most of the teas on the menu. Rich really enjoyed the Nokcha and felt very chilled out afterwards. Those macaroons were the king of any tea table, soft chewy with what I think was a passionfruit paste to sandwich the halves together, perfect for sharing with your Valentine or just to keep to yourself, they are that good and I really hope that macaroons are kept on the menu.
Lahloo Pantry Macaroons Bristol
I am tempted by their afternoon tea menu, as an option for my birthday in 2 weeks as it is a perfect way to while away a birthday afternoon. Lahloo Pantry is definitely up my street, slightly kitsch and vintage decor give it a relaxed feel so I was unsurprised by how busy it was and expect it to continue to do very well I cannot wait to go back, hopefully this weekend.

Take your loved one for a rose tea and heart macaroon date tomorrow you will not regret it. To view their menu for brunch, cakes or teas visit their site

Tomorrow Rich and I go to The Town House on Whiteladies for Valentine's dinner, cannot wait!

Friday 10 February 2012

Dinner and the Morning After

So just a very quick post before the weekend consisting mostly of photos of my dinner last night, pizza puff tart and my breakfast this morning, a butterscotch and hazelnut Pippin doughnut.This weekend is going to be fairly sedate but I do plan on checking out the huge varieties of tea tomorrow at Lahloo Pantry in Clifton. They have a special Valentine's Day wild rose tea that am very curious about. Also it seems like the ideal venue for my birthday afternoon tea, their menu sounds divine so I am very excited about that.

Meanwhile here are some hunger inducing photos
Puttanesca style sauce with mozzarella a smattering of cheddar and mixed Italian meats

Jim from Pippin doughnuts told me this morning that he will now be selling his doughnuts at the Friday market at St Nicks instead of the Wednesday one. For me it makes the temptation even more great as he has moved up to the Wine Street bit which is 10 seconds from my office door. Damn those tasty beasts!

Thursday 9 February 2012

A Visit to The Old Bookshop

Rich and I are big fans of tapas.  Experiencing eating only tapas on a mini break to Madrid in the famous tapas quarter, La Latina, only fueled the fire further.  We have hosted a few tapas nights, and so far my chorizo baked in wine and herbs is my signature tapas dish.

Last night Rich and I and our friend Phil went to try out The Old Bookshop on North Street in Bedminster. The Cathy Jones Trio were playing and being partial to a spot of Bossa Nova as well, this seemed like the perfect night out...and so it was.

A small, yet perfectly formed venue complete with wall to wall bunting, typewriters on the walls and instruments as lamps. As a fan of the 50s both the decor and atmosphere were slightly twee and totally up my street! As a former DJ I would love to host a Rock n Roll night there and really make the most of this fantastic venue.
The Old Bookshop Bristol
The three of us each decided to go for 3 tapas for £10 deal so chose 9 off the 16 long tapas list and nursed a bottle of rioja whilst we eagerly awaited the tasty mini delights. Mini was not the word to describe what was delivered to our table. Nine generous sized dishes, and their sauce accompaniments, rocked up and I suddenly realised just how hungry I was.
Tapas The Old Bookshop
Each one of these dishes was a taste sensation, all served on beautiful mismatched vintage china, I had a lovely peacock on mine. Most of the ingredients used were common to tapas menus but each one had a slight twist on the traditional dishes. Although I could not fault any of the dishes, some I favoured slightly more than others. The root vegetable bravas with turmeric aioli was gorgeous the vegetables were soft and roasted just enough to make them wonderful with the earthy turmeric dip. The huge bowl of fried salt and pepper cuttle fish with sweet chilli dip was cooked perfectly and totally addictive.
The Old Bookshop tapas

My final favourite, I think, was the hot and spicy jerk chicken drumsticks, they were sweet but with a slight kick. The chicken just fell off the bone and the flavour had infused through out and melted in the mouth. I was slightly disappointed not to have room left to try the deep fried Mars bar in vanilla batter, but hoping this curiosity will stay on the menu for a bit til the next time I can make it down for another visit.
The Old Bookshop Tapas
They also do Pieminister and mash for £5 and such scrumptious looking cakes. I cannot urge people strongly enough to check this place out. The atmosphere was relaxed and happy, helped along but the lilting Brazilian melodies from Cathy Jones. You can tell that it will be a great success with such fantastic food I cannot wait to go again it was everything I could have hoped for and more. With El Rincon, Bristol's only other truly fantastic tapas bar, at the other end of North Street I am now planning on doing a mini tapas crawl from one end to the other and very soon! Visit their website for more info.
Also for a bonus here is my pretty peacock plate, that I would pay good money to have a copy of, if anyone has any tip offs let me know.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Mouth Watering Short Ribs

A second post from resident barbecue enthusiast Joe about what he got up to last weekend...

At the moment BBQing for me is about experimenting with cuts of meat I've never cooked with before. Last weekend a visited my favourite butcher, Ruby and White's on Whiteladies Road, to pick up a rack of beef short rib.  I was pleasantly surprised with how much meat was on the bone. The cooking, I decided, was going to be similar to a brisket as it was a lean tough cut that would need a lot of cooking.
I marinated the short ribs for 18 hours in a dry rub of onion, garlic, tomato, cumin, corriander and paprika powders plus a bit of ground chipotle chilli for some smokey heat.
So the next day I got up bright and early to get the smoker fired up.  I filled two chimneys with lumpwood charcoal, fired them up and poured the rest of the coal on one half of the smoker. The idea being that you cook the beef with indirect heat.  That way it won't burn so easily.  On the other half of the smoker next to the coals and directly under the ribs I had a tray filled with hot water to keep the outside of the beef from drying out.

As well the coal I added small amounts of oak throughout the cooking process to add that smokey flavour.  Smoking can be easily over done and over smoked food can taste bitter. Thankfully this wasn't the case. The ribs were cooked for 7 hours at 220f. In hindsight 6 hours would have been enough they were then left to rest for an hour.
Now I know what you're thinking, " he's burnt it!" but the fat 'fat cap' does go that colour due to the dry rub. I could have used less dry rub to be honest, I think I got a bit carried away. The meat itself was as juicy and as tender as they come.
And the left overs made a good chilli con carne. I even have some more left over a Naga curry! Real man food I think you'll agree ;-)

Mmm thanks Joe the photos are making me drool at my desk, not a pretty look. A great second post for the week, a review of tapas at The Old Bookshop in Bedminster and a report on steak with peppercorn sauce to look forward to later in the week.

Monday 6 February 2012

My First Pie!

This weekend I conquered my pie making fears and it turned out miles better than I could have expected. Both Rich and I have a soft spot for the magnificent Pieminister Moo and Blue pie, seriously go try one, so decided this would be the flavour I would replicate for my own pie. I went with beef, ale and stilton for my main ingredients, Rich chose Bombardier ale, one of our friend's favourite drink choices, to marinade the beef in. I soaked the beef in 400ml of Bombardier, crushed garlic, a handful of peppercorns and some fresh thyme for about 4 hours but apparently leaving it overnight is best.

I then sifted out the beef and rolled it in some pepper and herby flour and fried it until mostly brown then sifted it out again.I added celery carrots and 4 shallot halves to the pan and added some of the ale marinade and some redcurrant jelly and cooked for about 10 mins then I re-added the beef, paprika and 450ml of beef stock and let that cook down, covered, for about 40mins. To my joy a lovely thick gravy had formed in the saucepan and it smelled amazing. I poured it into my pie dish and dotted lumps of stilton before adding the puff pastry top and some air holes.

 I cannot get over how easy it was to make, I was really expecting the flavour not to be as full and strong as it turned out to be. Definitely the best thing I have cooked for a while, Rich is already eager for the next pie installment. Perfect Winter fuel. Go forth now and make pie!

Friday 3 February 2012

Shout Out of the Week Goes To....Revival Cafe!

Ever since I started working in the centre of Bristol about 4 years ago I have tried to be strict on bringing my own lunches but about 3 years ago I found Revival, just next door to St Nicks Market, a place that will easily make me break my habit. Their paninis are my weakness. Today I folded again after nearly a full week of being lunch efficient. Revival Cafe also does a huge selection of hot drinks, soup, baguettes, sandwiches, toasted flat breads and baked potatoes with over 10 fillings to choose from and they are all under £5. They do some mouthwatering home made cakes and all the portions and fillings are very generous and you would certainly not go away hungry.

Revival Cafe is housed in a lovely building which nestles in next to the gorgeous All Saints church on Corn Street, sources local ingredients where possible and is definitely my go to place for when I want to treat myself to lunch. My personal recommendations would be the barbecue chicken, smoked ham and mature cheddar panini, or bacon, brie and cranberry, however you cannot beat their tuna mayo jacket potato either. To check out their full menu visit them online. So if you haven't visited Revival Cafe yet, what are you waiting for? Go next week and get something tasty to warm you through the minus temperatures.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Massaman Style!

So last night I attempted my first Massaman Thai curry, I've made green curry before but I've never tackled my favourite thai dish. It went better than expected but this dish is by no means healthy! Coconut cream and milk, beef and peanuts being some of the main ingredients this is more of a delicious indulgence but one I cannot resist! The result was so creamy and nutty it could easily have been from your local Thai restaurant, both Rich and I were bowled over by yummyness (TM  my friend Jayne) that I will definitely be sharing this with friends when they come round for dinner. Plus I am now able to create pleasingly shaped rice, hurrah for aesthetic rice shaping.

All thanks to a little book on Thai food which mum gave me for Christmas, yes in part I cheated and used Massaman paste from an Asian supermarket but this recipe added extra spices and goodies so it was only half cheating. The recipe is a bit long to type out but I took a photo of it and I will stick it up at the end of all the lovely food photos. I have already bookmarked by next Thai recipe, caramalised pork belly with star anise.