Search This Blog

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Work Christmas lunch at Bordeaux Quay

This year I've had three work Christmas parties. The big masque at Longleat House which occurred almost two weeks ago, a team lunch yesterday at Shanghai Nights and last week a divisional lunch which was at Bordeaux Quay. I was asked to draw up a short list of restaurants by management and they would choose one. I was happy with all my picks (six in total) and finally after a wait Bordeaux Quay was revealed to be the chosen one. I had never been to Bordeaux Quay before and after hearing so many good things over the years I was excited to finally be going.

The Christmas menu for the brasserie was a delicious looking one and after a short deliberation I decided to opt for the pumpkin soup with toasted seeds and chilli pesto, slow cooked pork belly and spiced sticky toffee pudding for dessert. But with over 5 courses to choose from for each course there is definitely something for everyone.
Bordeaux Quay Bristol
Pumpkin soup with fresh bread
This was a brilliant soup the pesto really gave it a lift but the freshly made bread was the crowning glory. Light and fluffy, the seeded bread was my particular favourite, cannot beat seeds in or around bread in my opinion. We had all been waiting so long for lunch, it was booked to eat at 3pm, that we'd been starving ourselves all morning so as soon as the starters arrived we pretty much hoovered it up in grateful silence. 

Bordeaux Quay Bristol
Slow roasted pork
Bordeaux Quay Bristol
Pork with mash and kale
The size of main that was brought out was huge, the piece of pork was extremely generous. Placed on a bed of mash with some curly kale for a pillow and an apple puree for a blanket this was a great dish. The pork fell apart and was extremely well flavoured with a crispy top of crackling. I was impressed. It was great that Bordeaux Quay was delivering on all the great comments I'd heard over the years from friends, having said that I had some serious doubts as to whether I would be able to tackle dessert after such a monster of a main. Luckily after some more wine and a bit of a break I found some room.
Bordeaux Quay Bristol
Spiced sticky toffee pudding
This was one of the best sticky toffee puddings I've had although I could have done with more spice in it, as it was labelled as spiced, but then I am a spice nut. The butterscotch sauce that came with it was smooth, velvety smooth, and not too sweet. This was a melt in the mouth pudding, and it seemed to be the best of the ones that arrived on the table, the chocolate mousse torte was pronounced a bit dry by some. So we sat round the table, ordered some more drinks, in some cases Irish coffees with cream, and sat back with full stomachs. 
Chris' Irish coffee
I am looking forward to returning to Bordeaux Quay in the new year, their Christmas menu really impressed me, often Christmas menus aren't great value and the food can feel a bit of a let down, definitely not the case here. I will say one thing the area where we were sat, right at the front, did look like it needed a bit of a spruce up and a lick of paint as it sort of felt a bit tired. Definitely something to think about in the Spring but obviously this did not impact our enjoyment of the day in any way. To check out Bordeaux Quay's Christmas menu or any of their standard menus, visit their website.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Sunday Soothing at Bento Ramen in Camden

Last weekend was another London one, catching up with London friends for a 30th party and my favourite Australian, Kathryn.  Poor Kathryn had the dreaded Winter lurgy so we decided the best food for this would be some hot nourishing ramen. So a short trip down the road from her, and boyfriend Gavin's flat, led us into Camden, an area I populated much when a student. Just 2 minutes away from the tube station is a place called Bento Ramen, preceded on the same road by Bento Box. 
Bento Ramen Camden

When we walked through the door it was full of the joys of Christmas with all the usual Christmas pop songs floating around the restaurant. Bento Ramen is a really nice little restaurant the decor at the back of the restaurant is pretty and just looks like a bit more effort has been spent on it. 
Bento Ramen Camden

Bento Ramen Camden Menu
Some of the ramen options
Ramen is not something I have eaten a lot of in my life, preferring fried noodles as my cooking method of choice. The last time I ate ramen was several years ago and it wasn't great, the broth was flavourless and the toppings scanty. I am pleased to say after this visit this has totally changed. I chose the bento ramen option from the 2 page ramen menu, this was described as pork and seafood in a miso broth. We also ordered a few side dishes to curb any remaining hunger. 

Whilst I waited I sipped at my jasmine flour tea which I ordered, a beautifully delicate tea compared to straight up jasmine tea leaves, which I do also enjoy. So if anyone has bought this in Bristol let me know and I will head to get some straight away.
Jasmine Flower Tea
Jasmine flower tea
Bento Ramen Camden
Pork and seafood ramen
Bento Ramen Camden
Kathryn's ramen
My ramen came with a tempura prawn as well as items like tofu, egg and sweetcorn. It was extremely well flavoured and very comforting. I would come back here again like a shot. Ramen can be deceptively filling so we really struggled sharing out the char siu buns, siu mai and marinated pork belly pieces, which were particularly delicious.  So warm yourself through these horribly cold months with some hot soothing ramen, they will heal and warm you, definitely what I need today, I have been sneezing all morning. Check out the menus and location of Bento Ramen by visiting their website.

Monday 10 December 2012

Gluten Free Christmas Baking: White Chocolate and Stem Ginger Cookies

Sarah (Wuthering Bites) and I had a Christmas baking day. Each of us brought a recipe and she was going to show me some straightforward gluten free baking to prove how easy it is to substitute flours but with no affect on taste. So whilst we prepped all the ingredients we popped on Kate Bush and Disney and sang along with great gusto, I like to think nurturing cooking with song helps it taste better. I had brought a white chocolate and crystalised stem ginger cookies to the table whilst Sarah had adapted a black treacle and cinnamon heart biscuit recipe to make it nice and gluten free. You can see her recipe, more of her excellent photos, and our results here.
Gluten Free Cookies
White Chocolate and Ginger cookies (with hot coffee) 
It amazes me how gluten, something I take for granted as being able to consume, causes so much trouble., but for a lot of people it is a big problem. Luckily Sarah, who is a hero to the cause, has made a study of how to alter recipes so they taste pretty much the same, just requires a little more experimentation. Here however is a fool proof cookie recipe, that to me, having consumed my own version many times, tastes almost bang on the gluten filled one. The cookies will come out chewy and super moreish. This recipe is pretty versatile, whatever you fancy in your cookies you can just add in. So far I have  made these cookies with, Daim bar (also gluten free), Toblerone and dark chocolate with hazelnuts.

You will need:

125g butter
120g gluten free plain flour*
30g of tapioca flour
100g white chocolate
4 pieces of crystalised stem ginger chopped into small bits
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
1 egg
100g granulated sugar-it's the two types of sugar that give them the chewy texture
75g soft brown sugar
2 tsp of vanilla extract 
Pinch of salt

*(the standard gluten recipe uses 150g of plain flour)

Chop the chocolate and ginger and pre heat the oven to 190 degrees with fan. Weigh out the sugars into a mixing bowl and melt the butter in a saucepan then add the melting butter to the sugar mix then beat it. Crack the egg into the bowl and add the vanilla extract, salt and baking powder. Tapioca flour, I am informed, acts as a  thickener or gel when cooking, like fake gluten, adding a little extra help to the gluten free flour. Weigh the flours and then add gradually to the bowl  mixing each time as you go the mixture will be fairly stiff by this point. 
Gluten Free Cookies
A very eager Miko (photo by Sarah Carter)
Add the chocolate and ginger and mix once more. Get some baking parchment on a baking tray and use teaspoons to separate out your mix into small blobs, do not press down, the oven will do the magic for you. Bake for 8-10 minutes, you are looking for browning round the edges and cracks forming across the top. They will still be soft when you get them out but have faith because if you leave them in too long they won't be chewy and delicious.
Gluten Free Cookies
Cookies in detail (All Photos by Sarah Carter)
Gluten Free Cookies
Miko eager to sample  (photo by Sarah Carter)
So my first foray into gluten free baking and I was suitably impressed as to how easy it was. I was afraid it was going to be difficult but with a guiding hand I know I have at least one sweet to prepare for my gluten intolerant or coeliac suffering friends. 

Thursday 6 December 2012

Dim Sum at Shanghai Nights

Way over due a dim sum visit, I am an addict you know, a recent Sunday, Jamie, Elisa, Mar, Gema and I went to Shanghai Nights for their dim sum menu. I was extremely hungry so we let Jamie, as the expert, lead the way in ordering. We had been in the restaurant for about 15 minutes and no one had come to take our  drinks order, so Jamie went up to the desk to enquire and was told we had to order them and the food from the bar. This was fine if we had been told the procedure before hand, it pretty strange that we had to guess what the deal was. 4 of us shared a pot of Iron Buddha tea whilst we waited for our dim sum to arrive.
Shanghai Nights Dim Sum
Pork and Chive Dumplings
Shanghai Nights Dim Sum
Salt and Pepper Squid
We had to ask for plates and chopsticks, for 5, we were delivered plates and five individual chopsticks, which was rather amusing and odd, so we had to ask for 3 more separately. The food however was great. We all agreed most of the dim sum we ordered was some of the best we'd had in Bristol so far. The flavours were fresh and the dim sum, extremely well stocked with filling. I particularly enjoyed my favourite Siu Mai and the Xiao Long Bao, which were very well made as the soup filling did not leak out at all so when you took a bite the lovely fragrant stock poured out. There is a great short film about their dim sum and an interview with the dim sum chef from Shanghai Nights on vimeo here.

As well as a variety of dumplings we also order some salt and pepper squid, cuttlefish cakes and shredded pork with crispy noodles to pad out the meal. All were wonderful, I have never had cuttlefish before and it went wonderfully with the chilli dip, nice and crispy with a subtle fish flavour. The noodles were greatly admired for the variety of textures in the dish, crispy noodles with soft vegetables and fragrant pork made a great combination. 
Shanghai Nights Dim Sum
Cuttlefish Cakes

Shanghai Nights Dim Sum
Siu Mai
Shanghai Nights Bristol Food
Shredded Pork with Crispy Noodles
Shanghai Nights Dim Sum
Delicious shrimp filled Har Gow (perfectly peachy coloured morcels)
There are a few tweaks they need to make with regards to service, but the dim sum at Shanghai Nights, bar about 2 dishes, is even better than Dynasty so if you are a dim sum fan, I recommend giving them a visit. We paid about £13 each including a drink which is pretty good value for what you get. Dim sum is always best when you go with more than two people as you get to sample more dishes I am looking forward to returning and sampling their buffet menu. For menus, karaoke and bubble tea flavours check out their website.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Celebration Steak: Hudson Bar & Grill

For our 100th post Rich reviews our latest journey to Hudson Bar and Grill in Bath. So whilst I quietly celebrate post 100 you can enjoy reading about our steak night.

Bristol these days is not exactly well-served for good steak restaurants. Since the closure of Cattlemans just over two years ago, there has been a lack of steak expertise. Good steak is available of course, but for that truly awesome experience, only The Cowshed has really stepped up to the plate. The finest steak however lies not that far out of Bristol, and comes courtesy of Hudson Bar and Grill.
Hudson Bar and Grill Bath
Hudson's Front Door
Hudson itself is now well-established in Bath and everyone I know who has been there has drawn the same conclusions. Abby herself first went here nearly ten years ago and has been raving about it ever since. So her, myself and our friend Steph booked ourselves in to celebrate my first month in my new job. One of the coldest nights yet, we shivered along to the restaurant and were embraced by it's warm cosy feel and open fires. 
Hudson Bar and Grill Bath
Bread sticks and creamy dip
We sat down to a table downstairs by the fire and had thin bread sticks to dunk in a creamy garlic dip which only made us hungrier. A good sized wine list means you get all sorts of variety without there being an overwhelming choice, and there’s a good range of prices (taking into consideration the fact that wine in restaurants always has a huge mark-up) I chose us a bottle of the Vallobera Rioja, a wine we have had there before and really love. It is packed with smooth full bodied fruits and a good hint of vanilla a great wine which I have recently found you can buy from Avery's so I will be getting several bottles to enjoy over Christmas.
Hudson Bar and Grill food
Buffalo mozzarella salad

Hudson Bar and Grill Food
Tempura prawns with spicy ponzu dip

Hudson Bar and Grill food
Crispy goats cheese medallions caramelised apples and baby spinach
We ordered our starters, a buffalo mozzarella salad, tempura prawns with ponzu dip and crispy mini goats cheese salad, which were all excellent as we sampled each others with great joy and only heightened the anticipation of the steak. At Hudson they feature Angus and Limousin beef slowly matured for a minimum of 35 days. So three super marbling rib-eye steaks were ordered, one a medium, one a medium-rare and for me a rare. 

For years I always ordered my steak medium-rare, and had always enjoyed it that way, but a friend a few years back had said that ‘the better the meat, the rarer you should eat it’. And whilst I don’t 100% agree, as I don’t really do blue steak, it’s a true enough statement, as the worse a cut of meat, the more well-done you should have it, and so knowing of Hudson and it’s meat excellence, I had my rib-eye rare. 
Hudson Bar and Grill Bath
Super Marbling Rib Eye
best steak in Bath
Steak perfection
Hudson Bar and Grill Bath
Close up steak with fries

The steaks arrived looking perfectly cooked and presented, sat in the meat juices and red wine jus with a small salad and helping of béarnaise on the side in a little tempura crisp cup, plus a healthily sized portion of salt and black pepper fries for us to share. Simply put, it’s the best steak I've ever had. The meat is delicious and just melts in the mouth, while the flavour itself is intense with the red wine adding to, not over-powering, the flavour of the steak. The crisp and béarnaise that comes with the steak too perfectly complements both the meat and the fries. Not many words were exchanged as we slowly pace our way through the course, taking care as we are not to rush this sheer thrill of pure flavour.

And yet, after all that, we still somehow (greedily) found ourselves able to order dessert. Although to be fair we did only order two to be shared between three - in this case a crème brûlée (Abby’s go-to choice) and a Belgian waffle topped with toffee sauce. The crème brûlée was very good (and I’m reliably informed by my crème brûlée connoissseur, that it was very VERY good), but for me personally the waffle won it, with one of the best toffee sauces I've ever had. Think rich, smooth, sweet, and all those other good things that you’re not meant to want in a food – it was all those and more.
Hudson Bar and Grill Bath
Brûlée with dipping cookies
Hudson Bar and Grill Menu
Waffles and a butterscotch sauce shot
Hudson is to my opinion the best steak out there you can get. If anyone is willing to prove me wrong by finding a better option, then please feel free to, but to my mind the meat used, the cooking of the meat, and the seasoning and flavouring, is just too near perfection that I’d be sceptical of there ever being a better steak. It isn't cheap, with more than likely dinner for two coming to at least £60 (depending on what you have of course), but if you want good food, and it is very good, it is worth the money. For people who don't want steak there are other less expensive menu options like the burger plus some fish and tasty sounding vegetarian dishes also. But for meat eaters, just go straight for the steak, as my dad said recently, it's the best steak he's had outside Argentina.

Service was very good, with our designated waiter being attentive, friendly, knowledgeable and very helpful, and the atmosphere was exactly what you want from a restaurant. Cosy, warm and very relaxed it is definitely one of Abby's favourite restaurants and I have to agree with her, we've never had a bad meal here and always look forward to attending. I think I know where she is going for her birthday next year. What are you waiting for? Check out their website for full menu details.