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Tuesday 30 April 2013

A Saturday Evening at Bica

The other weekend on the evening after booking our wedding venue and munching through some of the best chips ever at the Plume of Feathers, Jamie had organised dinner at Bica a bistro on Cheltenham road. Boca specialises in Brazilian-Portuguese cuisine. On a Saturday evening they have live music to play you through you meal, we were treated to some wonderful Bossa Nova, a particular favourite genre of at least three members of our party so they were very happy indeed.
Bica Bristol Cheltenham Road
Freshly squeezed orange juice
Though the weather was rainy, as it had been all day, it felt rather like being on holiday inside with the soft lilting music and the warm atmosphere. The restaurant itself had only one large group of about 12 and our table of 7, this was probably because we were dining a bit later than normal at 8.30. Although the menu does have some Brazilian and Portuguese dishes on it it also has a good selection of tapas and for fans of neither they also have burgers and breakfasts for the morning. Also has a pleasingly large cocktail menu for a restaurant.

Rich decided to choose several dishes of tapas for his dinner whilst I went for feijoada, the Brazilian national dish. Feijoada is essentially as stew made from beef, pork and beans but there are so many recipes and ways of making this dish out there that there is no standard traditional set recipe. I have had it twice now and neither tasted like the other.
Portuguese cuisine Bristol
Bica Bristol Cheltenham Road
Calamari with chipotle mayonnaise
Bica Bristol Cheltenham Road
patatas bravas

Bica Bristol Cheltenham Road
smoked ribs
Food arrived after around 20-25 minutes which was better than I was expecting for a larger party. My feijoada was clean tasting with the beans and veg, the flavour was smoky but subtle. I enjoyed it but I think it could have done with more meat, if you research recipes for this dish they all contain a lot more meat which I think would have thickened the sauce a little more. But most importantly the flavour was very good and pretty filling. The calamari were really tasty, the sauce that was brought to dip them in did not seem to be what was described on the menu. It was very limey possibly with some avocado but it was hard to tell, it was tasty it just didn't taste of chipotle.
Bica Bristol Cheltenham Road
peri peri wings
The best tapas dish was the ribs, the meat fell off the bone and was well flavoured, although the calamari come a close second. The patatas bravas were a tad disappointing, I could have done with a bit more seasoning. On the whole I was impressed by the food at Bica the atmosphere was particularly warm and inviting, it brightened up a dreary evening of more terrible weather, their Portuguese custard tarts help you forgive most things.  To get yourself some artificial sunshine head down to Bica for a Caipirihna and a shot of Joao Gilberto and pretend you are in Rio. Check out the menu and live music dates on their website. Upcoming blogs will be on Nomu on Whiteladies and London restaurants Maroush and Bone Daddies. 

Thursday 25 April 2013

A Curry at The Clove

A few weekends ago Rich went out for curry at the Clove with some friends here is what he thought.

Bristol has no shortage of curry houses. Or any shortage of good ones, or bad ones, tacky looking ones… we have a whole lot of them, and in many varying levels of quality. From outside appearances The Clove does not look anything special at all, and indeed its website could do with some much-needed updating. Inside though, and exactly where it counts, The Clove ticks all the right boxes. D├ęcor is typical of your expected curry house – dark woods, red carpet, boothed seating – and drinks options are as standard – Kingfisher, Cobra etc. Service though is noticeably that extra bit more than most venues of similar cuisine – friendly, always smiling and very attentive.
The Clove Bristol

The menu and food too offers most of the usual options, but a little bit extra also. The poppadoms for example are good, but the selections of chutneys are excellent. Instead of the normal three or four usual standards, you get five, and they for the most part taste fresh and different to the standard you’d normally expect. The usually polarizing lime pickle for example, not usually on my preferred chutney list, here was more palatable offering a nice clean sharp taste. The mint yoghurt and red coconut combination is always a welcome plus too.
The Clove Bristol
Tandoori Mixed Grill
The main course of tandoori mixed grill was a good-looking plate of red-coloured chicken and sheek kebab, which crucially looked great, and happily tasted as delicious as it looked. What really separated it from other similar tandoori dishes that you can get from other Indian restaurants though was the quality of the mint yoghurt and salad. Fresh and freshly made, both tasted crisp and looked perfect. No bland creamy gloop or dry brown leaves here, just clean tasting and a perfect complement to the meal.
The Clove Bristol
Garlic Chilli Massala
Similarly the chicken chilli massala and garlic chilli massala had impressive flavours. Both possessed spicy and hearty warm flavours, but the garlic massala edged it slightly with the garlic adding a nice shade of sweetness to the heat, helping negate any oiliness that these dishes can sometimes be overwhelmed with. The karahi chicken too was just simply delicious. Sadly I wasn’t able to get to enough of it to provide a more detailed opinion, but it would easily make my list of chosen dishes were I to return.
The Clove Bristol

The Clove was a welcome surprise. Outward appearances don’t create a good impression, but where it counts – in the food, and the service, and the quality of the dining experience – it does very well indeed. And I would not hesitate in returning. To see what options The Clove has to offer, visit their website.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

A Celebratory Lunch at the Plume of Feathers

The weekend before last Rich and I took our families to view and book our wedding venue. It was a very drizzly day but after an exciting morning we decided to check out one of the local pubs for a celebration lunch. I had noticed the Plume of Feathers on the way, in a very beautiful country setting so that is where we settled. The Plume of Feathers is a 17th century traditional country pub, lovely stone floors and lots of light. Dad ordered a bottle of Prosecco to toast the day and we debated what to eat.
plume of feathers Bristol
The food is mostly pub grub, with sandwiches, baked potatoes and ploughmans but they also do have a  restaurant menu as well as a pub one and also a pizza menu. We mostly all settled on paninis or baked potatoes with bowls of chips to dip in to for extra munchies. I chose a bacon and brie panino and Rich went for the burger. 
plume of feathers Bristol
huge brie and bacon panino

plume of feathers Bristol
Rich's burger

plume of feathers Bristol
double cooked skin on chips
The portions were all really generous and we definitely left the pub feeling stuffed and happy. The chips were the stars of the show here though, lovely skin on chips with lots of flavour, mum even described them as some of the best chips she'd ever had, coming from a chip enthusiast that is praise indeed. Definitely keen to revisit the Plume of Feathers it had such a welcoming atmosphere, great country pub to stop at for a leisurely lunch, very much recommended. To check out what else the Plume of Feathers has to offer, including the annual duck race, visit their website.

Friday 19 April 2013

Friday Evening Tapas at Brace & Browns

Sarah had organised a little meet up, seeing as it had been so long, and Brace and Browns on Whiteladies was chosen. Brace and Browns offers up a large range of tapas dishes most of which have their origins in British cooking but fused with other countries, such as Italy, Japan and France. Our group of 9 were sat in the upstairs part of the bar and given menus to paw over. 

Each tapas is £4.75 which for most of the dishes is pretty good value, however when you consider that some of these items are salad or chips it becomes less good value. Having said that Rich and I chose 6 tapas to share between us we picked; mozzarella and tomato salad, the mini burger, truffle chips, mini fish and chips, pork three ways and a mixed mushroom dish with parmesan and polenta.

Brace and Browns Bristol
the first board to arrive

Brace and Browns Bristol
our board, a work of food art

This was definitely the most beautifully presented tapas I have ever seen, each board that arrived at our table was a picture. Rich and I were starving so we eagerly tucked in. The burger was the first to be tackled, and it was juicy and flavoursome with a sort of horseradish crossed with thousand island dressing on the top. Sadly this is was the best tapas on our board of the night. The ideas were there but most of the dishes suffered from either over cooking or under seasoning. The black pudding for example, that came as part of the pork done three ways was so hard it took a lot of effort to cut through and the pork medallion lacked salt.

Brace and Browns Bristol
pork cooked three ways

We also found some of the food a little cold, which could have been down to the fact that the presentation had taken so long. It was slightly disappointing that the taste did not live up to the presentation because it did look so good. I think these are problems that Brace and Browns can overcome because some of the dishes were promising and would be even better with some tweaking. Other than the burger my favourite taste was the bright forest green apple puree that came with the pork, best apple sauce I've ever had, so full of flavour I would love to be able to replicate it.

The tapas here has potential so would definitely return after a few months to see what is new. After Brace and Browns we checked out the replacement for The Colour Inn. Charlie's Bar is thankfully mostly unchanged, I was a big fan of The Colour Inn, so was pleased to know I could still go there for the same quality of cocktails. Thoroughly recommend the gingerbread martini it's heaven in a glass.
an old fashioned
To find out more about Brace and Browns visit their Tumblr for a menu and for updates on the latest cocktail mixes and music nights at Charlie's Bar visit their Facebook page. Next blogs will be on curry at the Clove, from Rich and our trip to Boca Bistro. 

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Farewell Tapas at Bravas

Last Tuesday I had arranged to have a farewell dinner with my friend Elly, someone I have known since I was four,  who was leaving Bristol for London. Elly is a big fan of all things Spanish, having spent some time living over there, so she chose Bravas for her farewell meal. This was my first visit to Bravas, shockingly, and even though we showed up before 7 it was already pretty busy. We found a spot in the window and swiftly ordered two glasses of red and some bread and olives to help us decide what tapas to pick.

Bravas Bristol

It was difficult to restrain ourselves from not ordering everything on the menu it all sounded so delicious but in the end we picked five dishes to share and sat back to wait somewhat impatiently as the smells of food around us only increased our hunger. The tortilla with aioli was the first to appear swiftly followed by the  Zamorano cheese with membrillo and patatas bravas, you couldn't not order bravas whilst dining at Bravas after all.
Bravas Bristol
Tortilla with aioli
Bravas Bristol
Patatas Bravas
Bravas Bristol
Zamorano cheese with membrillo
From these photos I don't think I need to tell you how good these tapas were, but I will. The tortilla was rich and creamy, improved even further by the wonderfully fresh tasting home made aioli. Zamorano is a sheep's milk cheese from Zamora in Spain and is very similar in taste to Manchego, the membrillo, or quince jelly that it was served with topped off the richness of the cheese very nicely indeed. The bravas were served as large slices of potato, like thick crisps with a tomato and pepper sauce this was different but it was just as nice in my opinion.
Bravas Bristol
Iberico pork cooked on the grill

Bravas Bristol
white beans with leeks and fino
It was hard to pick a favourite, but if pushed I think I would say it was the Iberico pork, cooked on the grill. They were the most tender and succulent pieces of meat I have had in a long while, simply seasoned with salt and pepper, from what I could tell, it melted in the mouth with barely a couple of chews. I was glad we chose an unfamiliar tapas dish, the white beans with leeks and fino was wonderful, slightly sweet which went perfectly with the leeks. Elly and I could not resist pudding there were four choices all as delicious as the last but eventually we settled on the truffles and the rice pudding.
Bravas Bristol

Bravas Bristol
Rice pudding
Rice pudding is a real guilty pleasure of mine but one I rarely indulge because most people I know don't like it enough to share with me. When I make it for myself I often flavour it with brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon, always cinnamon, I am a total addict. Bravas really stepped up to the plate with their rice pudding, it was flavoured with orange and nutmeg and was the ultimate in comfort food. The truffles were as good as they looked but you definitely only needed one each as they were very rich and decadent.

It was a perfect send off for Elly with all the food being superb. It made me anxious to return to Bravas as soon as I can, and I would urge you all to do the same, except then there would be no room for me. The food was so good I feel I want to keep it for to myself. Booking is definitely advised for more than two people so check out their wine list and sample menu on their website.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

A Saturday Evening Catch Up at Tampopo

Last Saturday two of my oldest friends decided we needed a catch up. And as Steph had to travel in from Bath and Helen was working in the centre I suggested Tampopo in Cabot Circus. Named after a Japanese girl's name for dandelion from the film of the same name they aim to help in the search for the perfect noodles. I'm not usually one for reviewing chain restaurants on the blog, but when I researched Tampopo I was surprised to discover that only five other branches exist, three of which are based in their origin city of Manchester. So after a quick drink at the cinema we met next door and were greeted by a much needed warm shot of hot air. The front of house was very welcoming and we were told that the wait would be about five minutes, as you cannot book tables unless you are a party of seven or over, so we were given some menus to paw over. 

Tampopo boasts a menu composed of faithfully reproduced classics and signature dishes without their own interpretive spin, whilst combining the best from across East Asia's street food scene. Certainly you will get the expected pad Thai, katsu curry and nasi goreng but there are also quite a few unknowns, unknown to me at least. Once seated we were brought some Thai crackers and dip to fuel our decision making.

Steering away from my usual choices I opted for khao soi (aka changmai noodles) a dish from Northern Thailand comprising of chicken, yellow noodles, garlic and ginger. Steph chose the yaki udon and Helen daging lembu goreng, a Malaysian dish of rump steak in oyster sauce with onion and ginger. We also chose some edamame and Helen had a starter of coconut prawns.

Tampopo Bristol Review
Khao Soi
Tampopo Bristol Review
Yaki Udon
My khao soi arrived and it was not at all what I was expecting but it was nonetheless delicious. After removing the coriander, to some people it genetically tastes like soap and I am one of these people,  I tucked in with gusto. The noodles were soft and the chicken plentiful, sitting in a spicy coconut curry sauce topped with crispy onions this was moreish to say the least. I would definitely order this again. Steph's yaki udon was also really good, the portion sizes at Tampopo are very generous and they don't stint on the meat and fish like some places. Helen's dish was nice but personally a little too much onion for me but it was very fragrant and worked well. 
Tampopo Bristol
daging lembu goreng
With a number of different dishes and nearly all main courses coming under £10 I feel that Tampopo definitely beats Wagamama on quality, flavour, personal touch and price. Tampopo feels fresher and more vibrant, I for one cannot wait to visit again, it really surprised me and I will be exploring more of their menu next time, there is a lot to choose from after all. To check out the menu visit Tampopo's website.