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Thursday 28 June 2012

Birthday Eve Lunch at Côte

Meandering through Clifton Village on a not-very-sunny and looking-like-it's-about-to-rain grey day, but enjoying the rare day off from work, we looked for somewhere for lunch that we hadn't been before. And owing to the fact that later in the week for birthday celebrations we'd be spending a lot more, we wanted something nice but that wouldn't break the bank. And so we chose the now not-so-new, but still very shiny and polished Côte.

Now when Côte had opened I remember being quite disappointed. A series of three and four storey flats had been constructed, with the bottom floor across four blocks left empty for potential businesses and when finally Côte stepped in and then opened, it all looked a bit unexciting. And also, to start with, massively crowded. Passing by though on a nice relaxing despite-typical-British-summertime-weather day, and with some good menu options, it seemed like a perfect choice, and we popped inside.

So what is Côte? Basically it's a French-styled Brasserie, offering a decent range of 'French Classics' at a good price - it by no means is a restaurant for that romantic meal for two though, more for an easy-going lunch with friends, the hustle and bustle being friendly and creating a nice atmosphere, but sometimes being just a too noisy and busy for an 'event' dinner. That's not to criticise the establishment in the slightest however as that is essentially what it is aiming for, and it works well, offering a nicely not too formal but still good food dining experience.
Cote Bristol
Loving the complimentary water bottle

Drinks are the standard for such a venue, with an adequate selection of soft drinks, beers and wines at the expected prices, and the food menu is a good size offering a good choice without giving too much. Lunch though is where Côte scores top points, with a good number of deals, reductions and 'plat rapides'. On this particular day for just over £10 each me and Abby were both able to order a starter and a minute steak with fries, and we were not disappointed in the quality of either at all.
Cote Bristol food
Cote Bristol food
Coarsely shredded duck and pork pate with cornichons

Abby's calamari was delicious and nicely light, while my coarsely shredded duck and pork paté with sour dough bread was both very good but perhaps just a little too much for just me. The main of steak frites too was uniformly top rate, with the fries being perfectly cooked and with a good crisp outside. And the thin minute steak was excellent, with plenty of flavour, a nice soft melty texture and all topped by a garlic butter that complimented both the steak and the fries absolutely brilliantly.
Cote Bristol Lunch Menu
Steak and frites, heavy on the garlic butter
Cote Bristol Lunch Menu
Super crunchy frites, delicious
Cote Bristol Lunch Menu
Pacman on my steak!
So food good, price good, atmosphere good. In fact there is much to like to about Côte, and with little to really criticise. If there is anything to raise as a criticism it would be the service, which actually was frustratingly poor. Upon entering the restaurant the head waitress was very attentive, full of bubbly energy, made us feel welcome and was keen to do as much for us as possible. Sadly for the remainder of our time there we were saddled with a miserably morose waiter who seemed to offer us service as if he was bored with customers, the job, and life in general. Every time he came to the table he looked sour and deliberately grumpy, and his few utterances to us bordered on monosyllabic, all in all helping to briefly suck the enjoyment out of the air each of the three times he came over, he also never once asked how our meals were. At the end of the meal too, the restaurant wasn't particularly busy, and yet he was nowhere to be found. How long do you wait to pay a bill before just walking out? It's a question I've always pondered, and I've waited much longer in some places than we did here, but the place was hardly running at a breakneck pace.

If that seems like ending on a down note, then let me say that I was won round with everything the restaurant had to offer aside from this one wrinkle. It's a great lunch venue, with a good atmosphere, a varied menu, tasty food and much more else besides to like, and it really does offer a nice alternative to a pub lunch if you're feeling lazy in the afternoon, and fancy a friendly and social meal. I'd certainly go there again, and I'd happily recommend it to anyone passing through. 

Check out the menu options here

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Lunch and Cake at Bar Chocolat

Saturday was Rich's birthday. We had already booked Hotel du Vin for dinner with his family and so we didn't really want to fill up on much during the day. We strolled on up to the village for a look around for a bite to eat for lunch. Everyone knows that Clifton Village has about two cafes for every shop you would think there would not be the custom for so many. But weekends are crazy busy in Clifton and nearly every place was rammed.

We settled on Bar Chocolat, formerly Me Me Chocolat, as we noticed it now did sandwiches and panini as well as many delicious sounding cakes. I used to find Me Me Chocolat a tiny bit haughty but they seem to have softened the decor a little, popped some smooth jazz on and employed some really lovely staff in the new incarnation.

The panini menu has a few different combinations but all sounding amazing. I went for goats cheese and salami whilst Rich picked chicken, Parma ham and mozzarella.
Bar Chocolat Bristol
Panini Central
The ingredients were good quality the flavours were really delicious, although I would have personally put some sun blushed tomatoes or a chutney with the goats cheese. There was a pleasingly large amount of it but as always it is pretty rich and needed something to cut through.

I definitely would recommend popping in to Bar Chocolat for lunch it was relaxing watching the world go by sat in the window, plus they had some beautiful fresh roses on the tables.

It did seem a bit of a crime going to Bar Chocolat without actually having a chocolate or cake but I have my eye on the Victoria sponge and a hot chocolate with cinnamon syrup and the whole works on top. Might even go this weekend as the idea of a cinnamon hot chocolate is making me drool.

**EDIT** Now I can bring you the results of cake from Bar Chocolat.

 Last weekend after getting caught in a downpour after a lovely walk around the downs we made it to the village, myself in particular resembling a drowned rat. As Bar Chocolat was the first cafe we arrived at and keen to avoid more rain we nipped in for a warming drink and a well needed sugar fix. I was keen to sample their hot chocolate so I ordered a regular milk chocolate, with what I thought was all the trimmings and cinnamon syrup. Rich went for their Mississippi Mud Pie whilst I picked the classic Victoria Sponge and in our greed we ordered a scone with jam and cream to share.

Victoria Sponge
Mississippi Mud Pie
The Victoria sponge was pretty good I have to say but I have yet to find one to top my mum's. Every year I request her vanilla sponge with vanilla butter cream for my birthday cake and it is probably my favourite cake, by the way if you are reading this, mummy, you still owe me one for this year, just saying. The mud pie was possibly the richest chocolate dessert I've tried in some time, even for sugar enthusiast Rich, it was a struggle. It was basically a torte the bulk was solid fondant with biscuit base and sides. It was very nice but there is no way you should attempt this cake on your own, unless you are a certified chocolate expert.

Hot chocolate and Scone
Fruit Scone with Jam and Cream
The hot chocolate arrived without any of the extras I had asked for and I can only assume it was because of the noisy coffee machine behind the counter which had previously interrupted my order. Ordinarily I would have contested my wrong order but after seeing the mountain of cakes we had to climb I decided that I didn't need any more sugar on the table.

The hot chocolate was probably the best you'll get in Clifton at least if not Bristol, but willing to be persuaded. It was made with actual melted chocolate compared to powder which most hot chocolates are made from in cafes. Really rich and very chocolatey but fairly sweet I was glad I didn't order a large, I have quite a low tolerance for how much sugar I can take on board but it doesn't mean I love it any less.

The scone was pretty nice but not as good as those you get in Lahloo Pantry, and yes I do prepare my jam and cream the Cornish way, jam first. The cream was not clotted though it was a extra thick double cream which was a little disappointing. All in all definitely go to Bar Chocolat, they have lunch and cakes in spades and you won't be disappointed.

Thursday 21 June 2012

A Quick Lunch at Channings

Channings pub/hotel is 2 minutes from our flat so quite often on a Saturday we will pop in there for a spot of lunch. We have a few favourites which we stick, these reside in the sandwich section of the menu. This time we went for club sandwich stack and chips and the fish finger sandwich also with chips.

Rich and I would argue that they do the best fish finger sandwich we've tasted so far. They have a piece of battered fillet with salad and a bit of mayonnaise. It really is delicious. Apologies in advance for the less than amazing photos on this post, Channings can be a bit dark round the back, which is no bad thing for a pub really.
Channing's Pub Bristol
Fish Finger Sandwich of Kings

Channing's Pub Bristol
Fish Finger Sandwich of Kings
Club Sandwich Stack
Their steak melt is particularly good but I was in the mood for the ultimate fish finger sandwich this time. Their chips are also worth mentioning really fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside, like proper good quality chip shop style. They have a couple of mid week food deals, where you can get a meal from the grill and a glass of wine for under £10, also a curry night on Thursdays.

What I like about Channings is that it is a good standard pub. Big enough space for a catch up with a few friends, home cooked tasty pub food and everyone there seems to be having a good time. This lunch time we saw some lovely old boys watching Trooping the Colour on their big screen, clearly regulars and it was obviously their peaceful haven to relax in.   Although Rich and I did struggle to imagine any other pubs in Bristol screening the parade, it was definitely novel.

It helps that Channings is so close to where we live but it's a good solid pub for friendly meet ups plus their beer garden is pretty large, it is always buzzing in the sunshine. By no means my favourite pub in Bristol but definitely one of the most consistent.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Sushi: Up Close and Personal

For Father's Day I took my dad to Obento, he adores sushi so it was the perfect place, and easily the best sushi in Bristol. As I have already covered Obento in the blog once or twice I will mainly be using this post to showcase some of the great photos dad took testing his new compact camera out. If this doesn't get your taste buds salivating for sushi, nothing will.

Deluxe California Roll Sushi Bristol
Deluxe California Roll
Sushi Bristol
Salmon Sashimi
Sushi Bristol
Obento's Infamous Dynamite Rolls
Sushi Bristol
Inari, Salmon Nigiri and Salmon Teriyaki
Close up Tuna Dynamite Roll
Sapporo Bristol
Excellent Japanese Lager
Remember Obento does half price on selected sushi Sunday through to Thursday this also includes evenings to make the most of a terrific bargain. For a full menu check out their website.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Mini Blog on Thai Green Curry

So last night I made chicken Thai green curry. First and foremost do not get your curry pastes from a supermarket, I have previously made this rookie mistake myself. The supermarket pastes are just not strong or hot enough for the corresponding curry, I found them pretty synthetic to be honest. Luckily my closest Chinese supermarket is on Denmark Street, Wah Yan Hong. It is next to Wongs and on my route home so perfect for impromptu dinner plans. Chinese supermarkets really excite me I love finding new things to try it is like the Aladdin's cave of food shopping. Having visited a few times with Jamie she has pointed out all the best brands and deals for your money and for that I am very thankful to have such knowledge at my fingertips.

For roughly 0.65p of your Earth money you can buy sachets of many different curry and soup pastes. I have tried making red, yellow and now green Thai curry so far, and their are a couple of others next on the list.
Authentic Thai Green Curry Paste Bristol
Thai Green Curry Paste I use
There are very easy instructions on the back which you can follow directly or go a bit off piste as I did.
Authentic Thai Green Curry Paste Bristol
Recipe on the Back
I used about two thirds of the paste as I know how hot green curry can be so wanted to test the water before adding more. This turned out to be pretty much perfect for us as it was pretty spicy but not burningly hot. I also used chicken thighs, I always use thighs in dishes like this because the flavour is much better than chicken breast and it doesn't dry out at all with cooking. Once I had added the chicken to the coconut milk and paste I also popped in some chopped potato. The recipe does suggest adding aubergine but seeing as I am not it's biggest fan I decided against it.
Chicken Thai Green Curry Bristol

I did however add some green beans right at the end along with the kaffir lime leaves, a few drops of fish sauce and a dash of lime. I left the extra chillis this time.
Chicken Thai Green Curry Bristol
Completed Chicken Thai Green Curry
Chicken Thai Green Curry Bristol
Chicken Thai Green Curry
Chicken Thai Green Curry Bristol
Thai Green Curry
So there you have it super satisfying curry to warm you on a cold evening, yes I am aware that it is June and it should not be cold now.

Monday 11 June 2012

Menu Sampling at Filini at the Radisson Blu

After a delightful lunch at Hotel du Vin the other week, I was also invited by Bristol Bites to Radisson Blu's Filini restaurant to the chef's table to showcase their new Sardinian menu. There were only 5 of us there which made it feel extra special, after being greeted with a glass of Prosecco we were led into the kitchen to watch the chefs at work.

Filini Bristol

It did feel somewhat odd being sat in the kitchen drinking and eating whilst people worked around us but actually there was no chaos and the atmosphere was pretty chilled. Our glasses were never empty and it was  great to see how enthusiastic everyone was. We were treated to six miniature courses most of which you will find on their Tour of Italy: Sardinia menu, which concludes on the 16th of June before they head on to the next region.

The canapés were brought out in a cloud of dry ice, reminiscent of the video for Total Eclipse of the Heart, I did almost expect some heavenly 80s soft rock chorus to kick in.
Rock Star Canapes


  • Curry cornet with salmon tartar, sweet onion, cream fraiche
  •  Poached Quail eggs with Bournoise vegetables 
  • Parmesan crisp with goat cheese mousse 
  • King prawn with avocado salsa 
  • Truffle custard on egg shell with chive potato crisp 
  • Asparagus with hollandaise sauce 

 These were as delicious as their entrance I actually didn't get to try the asparagus or the salmon tartar ones but the truffle custard on egg with crispy pancetta and chive crisp was a particular highlight. Savoury custard is definitely a strange concept. I have personally only come across it in chawanmushi, a Japanese dish that did not endear itself to me when described by my friend Matt as 'imagine a savoury creme brulee'. This was definitely something I did not want to imagine. This savoury custard however was smoky and full of richness. It sort of tasted like a fancy breakfast in a few bites. The king prawn with avocado salsa was another favourite, a really chunky prawn with a fresh but not overwhelming accompaniment.
Filini Bristol
Truffle Custard

King Prawn with Avocado Salsa

Lemon risotto with scallop and langoustine
Mixed Antipasti

The first starter to emerge was a lemon risotto with a chunky langoustine resting on the top. This was delightful. It was fresh, light, melted in the mouth, perfect flavours for Summer. The antipasti contained a few surprises, mainly the wonderful lamb prosciutto and smoked ricotta. The latter was definitely my highlight I have never had smoked ricotta before it was in no way bland and the smokiness really shone through the rich creamy texture. I found a whole wedge of Pecorino to be a bit heavy for an otherwise light board but that was possibly personal preference, strange as I adore full bodied cheeses usually.
Filini Bristol
Lemon Risotto

Filini Bristol
Mixed Antipasti

Main course
Monk fish wrapped with Parma ham, spinach and ceps
Roast rump of lamb with summer beans

Unless you discount sushi, of which I eat a lot of, I don't tend to order much fish when I am dining out, I have no idea why, but it is something that I must rectify. I found the monk fish tasty, the sauce in particular was excellent but for me it was nothing compared to the enjoyment I experienced upon tasting the lamb. The lamb was pink and tender, accompanied by a rich full bodied, meaty sauce. The beans were very well cooked, it might have been my favourite dish of the night but we had so many amazing things I am still not sure I can completely commit to a favourite.
Filini Bristol
Monk Fish Wrapped in Parma Ham

Filini Bristol
Roast Rump of Lamb with Summer Beans

Chocolate mousse
Biscotti with fresh raspberries
Filini Tiramisu

We were brought a beautifully presented tray of miniature desserts which looked almost too good to eat. But being advised the chocolate mousse disc would melt fairly swiftly we tackled that one first. A melt in the mouth disc of mousse coated in cocoa powder, sheer heaven. As I don't like coffee flavoured anything, one of my only dislikes, I did not try the tiramisu but it looked very pretty and delicate. My favourite was the biscotti with fresh raspberries, both sweet and tart enough to make the perfect pudding.
Desserts Galore

The chef's table experience was a wonderful one, if you ever see a restaurant offering such an event up, you should definitely take it as it was different and for me felt like a special evening. For more information on Filini visit their section of the website on the Radisson Blu website here. There is video available of some of the food preparation on the night definitely check this out, I get a very quick cameo as well.

As this was a showcase chef's table this meal was free of charge but did not impact how I felt about the food served, the photos speak for themselves. To see what Bristol Bites thought of the evening check out her review here.

Friday 8 June 2012

Lunch at Leong's Legends in Chinatown

This will be a post about my lunch at Leong's Legends in Chinatown, not obviously Bristol but definitely a tip if you like a good meal for a good price and you are in London.

It was the morning after the night before, which in question was my friend Andrea's hen do. There was drinking at the beautifully decorated Jewel cocktail bar on Piccadilly Circus and karaoke and set menu Chinese food at Imperial China in Chinatown. The food at Imperial China was actually quite nice especially the pork in ginger dish.

On Sunday I woke up tired but without a thick head, stuck to light drinking you see. After being cooked a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs with smoked salmon by Jessie's cousin whom we were staying with, I said goodbye to the beautiful Siamese cats that I had the pleasure of being pestered by throughout our visit and headed from Tufnell Park to Angel.  It was still early so I read my book and watched the rain with a hot chocolate in a nearby cafe. I was due to meet my super lovely fellow excitable foodie Julia for lunch and was really looking forward to a good catch up mostly talking about our latest food experiments. Once I got the signal I went off to meet her and we travelled down to Chinatown.

After a good amble about deciding where to eat and sifting through the Chinese supermarket for various delights we settled on Taiwanese restaurant Leong's Legends.

You have to knock on the door to be let in, which was some what of a novelty. It is quite a small restaurant inside with lots of dark rustic wooden tables. We settled in the corner and sat down with the menu to decide. We decided ordering a few dishes and sharing bits and pieces would be a good way to test more of the menu. We chose, crispy chilli beef, sticky rice steamed in bamboo, some char siu bao, siu mai, prawn dumpings, fried turnip cake and their speciality Legend's xiao long bao or siu loung bao as they are on the menu.
Legend's Xiao Long bao
This was my first experience of xiao long bao, they are described as soup dumpings, I assumed they would be dumpings in a soup. I was wrong. They taste a lot like gyoza, minced pork with ginger and other fragrant spices. However the difference is that they have soup stock inside them. They make these by popping a gelatinous soup stock cube inside the dumping which then dissolves when they are steamed. These were delicious if you see these on any dim sum menu order them immediately, although wait for them to cool a bit first.
Crispy Chilli Beef and Sticky Bamboo Rice
Pork and Shrimp Siu Mai
The crispy chilli beef was spicier than I've had before but very tasty. The sticky rice came in a mini barrel for us to scoop out. It had mushroom, chicken and shrimp mixed in with it and was simply wonderful. I was pretty slack taking photos because I was too busy eating and talking but we ordered just the right amount of food. The siu mai were stuffed with pork mince and shrimp and might have even been better than the ones I had at Dynasty. The fried turnip cake was a revelation it was almost creamy with a very slight hint of sweetness I am definitely keen to try it again it was just so different.
Prawn Dumpings
Finally, always a favourite the prawn dumplings, they look so pretty the crimped translucent bundles of peachy coloured joy. These were some of the chunkiest shrimp filled ones I have tasted so far and the casings just melt in the mouth.

Lunch for two with Chinese tea accompaniment cost us £17 each a total bargain for all the food we had if you find yourself in Chinatown definitely pay Leong's Legend's a visit it is really worth it.

This weekend we are off for a barbecue where I will show off my Pina Colada making skills, wish me luck it's been a while.

Wednesday 6 June 2012

Lunch at Hotel du Vin

Last week I was fortunate enough to receive a truly irresistible invitation. Emily from Bristol Bites asked if I would like to go for lunch at Hotel du Vin.  How could I say no? I pass Hotel du Vin every day on the way to work and have heard excellent things from a few friends, but I have never actually been in myself.

It was one of the nicest lunches I have had in a long while the restaurant itself is beautiful, lots of  wine bottles and pictures to catch your eye plus it is full of lovely natural light. 
Interior of Hotel du Vin
It took me a good long while to decide what to eat, that is the trouble with menu's that are packed with delicious options it takes me ages to pick something. Hotel du Vin has a very reasonable fixed rate lunch menu starting at £9.95 for one course, £12.95 for two and £14.95 for three. Perfect if you fancy a catch up or business meeting in a very wonderful setting you can view the lunch menu online here. On this occasion we decided to order from the main menu which you can also view here.

I chose the Chicken Liver Parfait, Toasted Brioche, Raisin Chutney, with the Duck Confit, Lentils du Puy for my main.
Hotel du Vin food
Chicken Liver Parfait
This was a truly delicious and indulgent starter. I am a huge fan of pâté and it's variants, it is always the first thing I pick up for when we go on a picnic, obviously followed by a super fresh baguette. The parfait was as smooth as silk and the raisin chutney was tart enough to cut through the richness. My only complaint was that the parfait size and the brioche piece didn't really match, luckily there was extra bread on the table for me to finish up the rest of the parfait. There was no way I was leaving any of this on my plate.

Hotel du Vin food
Duck Confit and Puy Lentils with Pancetta
Hotel du Vin Bristol food
Duck Confit, and the French feel of our table
My main was rich and hearty I've always wanted to try such a dish and I am very glad I now have. The flavour of the duck was smoky and satisfyingly melt in the mouth. We each had a bowl of Lyonnaise potatoes which was very nice but with such a filling main I could only manage about half of my side dish.

We were both pretty full after two such great courses but after a small pause we decided it would be wrong not to check out the dessert menu. Now had I not had such rich starter and mains I would have plumped for the cheese selection but I decided on my general fall back choice of crème brûlée because none of the other desserts tempted me much, I am much more of a savoury person after all.

Hotel du Vin Bristol food
Giant Crème Brûlée
Dessert was the biggest crème brûlée I think I have ever ordered it was simply enormous. The caramel top wasn't as hard as some crème brûlée's I've had but it didn't really matter because the dish was hot, comforting, smoothly creamy and full of vanilla pod seeds, very tasty. I actually couldn't finish it though it was  that massive. 

If you go to Hotel du Vin at any point to dine please make sure you check out their superb wine list it is immense and you'll be sure to get a glass of something that you really like. They are the knowledge so take advantage of the skilled sommeliers, we were fortunate enough to get a tour of the cellar from head sommelier Ben and it was magical.

Emily's review can now be found here. Here are a few teaser photos to start you off.

Hotel du Vin Bristol menu
Asparagus with Poached Egg, one of the Specials

Hotel du Vin Bristol Menu
As the guest of Bristol Bites this meal was free of charge but did not impact how I felt about the food in any way, I will not be censored after all, but you knew that anyway. Next blog may be on my trip to Leong's Legends a Taiwanese restaurant in China Town but have my special tasting trip to Filini at the Radisson Blu to cover and a possible second look at Cosmo's larger buffet offerings from Rich.