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Friday 31 May 2013

Pizzas at Pepe Nero

The other weekend Carla had invited a small group of friends out for one of her farewell to Bristol dinners and she had chosen Pepe Nero. Her Italian half craved a decent pizza and having heard from reliable sources that Pepe Nero offered true authentic Italian pizzas it would be folly to resist the opportunity to visit before she left for London. Pepe Nero can be found on the corner of Bond Street in Broadmead, a site historically held by  Italian restaurants Bottelino's and for a very short time, Fratelli's. 

We headed upstairs to the small seating area, Pepe Nero predominantly operates as a spot for a quick lunch time grab bag and also takeaway in the evening, they will even deliver to your door. They have a wide variety of toppings to choose from including the option for vegan cheese which is definitely something you don't see that often. I went for the crudo and panna pizza; Parma ham and double cream whilst Rich went for the Pepenero; bacon, olives, mushrooms, salami, ham and peppers.

Pepe Nero Bristol
crudo and panna

Pepe Nero Bristol
The Pepenero
Placing the toppings on top of the pizza, instead of cooking them at the same time, the Italian way, I am assured, is rather awesome. You could taste the quality of the deli meats much more easily than if they were cooked in and covered with cheese. I was extremely impressed by the high quality of the pizzas a great deal of topping generosity. The bases were I think the best you can get in Bristol, light and crisp but not dry. I did think the cream stated in my pizza of choice would be more apparent rather than mixed in with the cheese but it was still really indulgent and tasty. 

Pepe Nero Bristol
Crudo and panna upclose
A bargain for under £10 these pizzas are the jewel in the pizza crown, although I still also really like the pizzas at Beerd. The service at Pepe Nero was swift and polite and we were all pretty impressed, and I am looking forward to trying their takeaway service as a little weekend treat. To see what else Pepe Nero has to offer, visit their website.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

Pre-Train Refuel at Bone Daddies

Just before we returned to Bristol we had time for a spot of lunch and Kathryn, knowing how much I love all things Japanese, chose a ramen bar that her and Gavin had recently discovered. Bone Daddies is a fairly recent addition to Soho and it describes itself as a rock n roll ramen bar. This is pretty much exactly what it is. We walked through the curtains and were hit with 50s rockabilly and pictures of Japanese rock n rollers on the walls. Being a fan of 50s music and ramen, nothing really could have got this place off to a better start in my book. 
Ramen accoutrements
Everything from hair ties to bibs are available to make your ramen eating experience more enjoyable and less messy I was hungry and ready to order. I settled on a carrot and ginger juice followed by a bowl of tonkotsu ramen, a 20 hour bone broth with pork. Rich decided to crank up the heat with tantanmen, a chicken bone broth with chilli, sesame, pork mince and bok choy. 

carrot & ginger juice, ready for ramen

Tonkotsu ramen

Tantanmen ramen
First impressions were that the portion was huge, the hot clouds of steam rising from the bowls smelled divine and we all dug in cautiously, but greedily. My ramen was so creamy and rich tasting compared to other ramens I have sampled, down to the fact the broth is made from boiled pork bones cooked for many hours the fat breaks down and gives the stock a rich creaminess, rather like milk.  The pork slices melted in the mouth as well and were full of flavour, I can see why some people cite ramen as a good hangover cure, it's hot, nourishing but not too heavy on the stomach. 
Tonkotsu close up
Rich's Tantanmen was really very spicy but also creamy and nutty tasting, it had a wonderful flavour and packed quite the punch, I really liked it but would not have been able to eat an entire bowl of it myself. One of my favourite parts was the quality of the eggs in the ramen. Lovely Clarence Court eggs, very creamy and flavoursome, these made the ramen even more special.

So if you find yourself in London and fancy some ramen head to Bone Daddies, a little pricey at £11 or so for a bowl but it left me surprisingly full for the rest of the day. I wish Bristol had a proper ramen bar, hint to any budding restaurant owners out there, I would be there nearly every week if it did ramen as good as this. To find out more about Bone Daddies visit their website. Upcoming blogs include our visit to Pepenero, burgers from Start the Bus and a sandwich from Mi Casa at The Big Chill bar.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Chicken Katsu Curry Recipe

Chicken katsu curry is one of Rich's favourite meals and I thought the other week, can this be that hard to make? Turns out after some investigating and experimentation with a couple of recipes it isn't technically hard at all, it is just a little time consuming for a week day. Having said that it is definitely worth giving it a shot as the result is pretty close to what we have tasted in various Japanese restaurants that we have visited. 
my first katsu curry
I had some chicken thigh fillets to use up so I cut them in to long strips and then dipped them first seasoned flour, then egg and finally panko breadcrumbs. This was the time consuming part for me, I basically had a lot of strips to triple dip and for some reason it seemed to take for ever. After that part was out the way I got myself started on making up the curry sauce. 

This is what you will need:
1 Tblsp of oil
1 inch of grated fresh ginger
5 whole garlic cloves, crushed or chopped finely
2  Tblsps of plain flour
1  Tblsp medium curry powder
600mls chicken stock
2 teaspoons of honey
1  Tblsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon of garam masala

To make the sauce fry the garlic and ginger up in the oil for a few minutes until they have softened a little then add the flour and curry powder and stir constantly so it doesn't burn. Just like when you make a roux sauce add the stock gradually so to avoid lumps. Then add the honey and the soy sauce and bring to the boil then reduce the heat for 20 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Finally add the garam masala and put the sauce to one side whilst you fry up your chicken.

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken for about 5 minutes on each side, or until golden and cooked through. Basically I could have made my life a whole lot easier if I had either used chicken breasts or coated the thigh fillets as wholes because I was frying for a long time to get through all those strips, some of which caught a little in frying. Still I have learned something for next time and you can all learn from my mistake! I served this with steamed rice and poured the sauce over the chicken. The end result was worth the effort, this definitely tasted like chicken katsu curry, I was particularly impressed by how accurate the sauce tasted, I will be making this again.
Chicken Katsu Curry recipe Bristol
Chicken Katsu, the end result

Tuesday 21 May 2013

Celebratory London Meal, Lebanese at Maroush

A few weekends ago Rich and I went up to London to visit our friends Kathryn and Gavin. Also recently engaged this was the first time we had managed to catch up since they returned from their engagement holiday. Very kindly hosting us for two nights of celebration in London where the main themes were eating, drinking and pretending we were in a successful rock band we were introduced to two new, to us, restaurants the first of which was Maroush, Vere Street, near Bond Street tube station. Maroush is one of a mini independent chain of Lebanese restaurants scattered in the capital, the first of which opened just over 30 years ago on Edgeware Road. The outside looks fairly grand with fire torches, the moment you walk it it feels a bit like a canteen but we were greeted very warmly and led up to the mezzanine level which was much more restauranty.

Within the first five minutes of sitting down we were brought glasses of Prosecco, and a basket of fresh vegetables. Basically from start to finish we were treated like kings and queens the service was extremely attentive and friendly, nothing was too much trouble. We decided to order a couple of mezze dishes to share as our starter including: grilled halloumi, falafel, hummus, flatbreads and kibbeh shameyieh, a lamb meatball of a sorts.
Maroush London
super smooth hummus

Maroush London
Maroush London
 kibbeh shameyieh and grilled halloumi
The mezze were wonderful, the hummus was so creamy and smooth that we needed to order more bread to be able to finish the large portion we were given. My particular favourite was the kibbeh shameyieh, minced lamb encased in a crispy pulse shell it was aromatic and very delicious I could have eaten many more of those tasty fellows. For our mains I chose the Lamb Meshwi, along with Kathryn and Rich had the mixed grill, we decided not to order any sides with our mains because we still had some flatbreads and hummus left. Plus after seeing the size of mains ordered by other diners it was obviously the right choice.

Lamb Meshwi
lamb meshwi

Maroush London
mixed grill
My lamb meshwi main was chargrilled enough to give excellent flavour yet still be pink in the middle. The lamb was amazingly flavoured definitely the best lamb dish I have had in a long while. The chicken on Rich's mixed grill was lovely and zingly. All the mains came with a big salad and some roasted new potatoes, I personally couldn't finish all my lamb it was so delicious but I was so full. Our wine was nearly all finished and we were at the stage where you are so full you basically just need to snooze. However the staff at Maroush had other ideas when unprompted they brought over a plate of fresh fruit and baklava.
Maroush London

I do love ending a rich meal with some fruit it really helps me feel less full, the oranges slices were particularly refreshing. So we finished a seriously delicious meal and wonderful company and headed off back to Kat and Gavin's for a night cap and some more Rock Band. I can't recommend Maroush enough for fans of Lebanese food. So if you find yourself in London look up one of their restaurants or check out their website.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Pre Theatre Dinner at Falafel King

Jamie and I were on our way to the Redgrave theatre on Percival road and we needed to stop for a quick bite to eat, my first suggestion was Falafel King. Jamie, having never been to this Bristol institution, readily agreed and we met outside ready for a quick dinner. I have been to Falafel King on Cotham Hill a number of times and it never disappoints, definitely the best falafel you will get in town, and so far I have yet to have a falafel to rival it ever, although the ones at Maroush in London came very close if not equal to. I ordered a small pitta where as Jamie went for the salad, two meals for under £10, a total bargain.
Falafel King Bristol
Falafel in pitta

Falafel King Bristol
falafel salad

Falafel King Bristol
falafel salad up close
We waited about 5-10 minutes for the food to be prepared as it was a bit busy but once it arrived we tucked in. Jamie was really amazed to see how much food came with the salad option at such a cheap price. It looked so fresh and delicious next time I might be tempted away from my usual pitta option, which was excellent as always. One of my favourite elements of Falafel King is their chilli sauce, I didn't overload mine quite as much as chilli fanatic Jamie but I love a little for a good kick.

Most people are already aware of the greatness of Falafel King I just wanted to shout loud and proud how much of a fan I am. They often have live music in the evening where you can snack on meze and enjoy some shisha so for all your falafel cravings and needs this is the best place in town. For more info on live music schedule or opening times check out their Facebook page. Next week I want to finally write up my first foray into katsu curry, so then you can all have a go at making it.

Monday 13 May 2013

A Tuesday Evening Dinner at Juniper

Tuesday was the last hot day that we are likely to see for some time, so it was a beautiful evening for Rich and I to walk the 15 minutes or so to Juniper down in Cotham. I had never been to Juniper before and had heard mixed reviews, the downside of which seemed mostly related to a lessening in quality that people had experienced using Groupon or Living Social vouchers. But extremely hungry and with an open mind we arrived at Juniper a little early to be shown to a little table in the corner by the window. This pleased the blogger in me because it meant beautiful light for photos, but it was also a secluded table perfect for a romantic date type evening too. 
Juniper Restaurant Bristol

Rich chose a lovely bottle of Spanish white and we sat back to enjoy the ambience, at 7pm the restaurant was not particularly full but I was surprised by how many people started to trickle in over the next hour, for a Tuesday at least. We were sampling the seasonal five course set menu and there were a lot of tempting sounding choices for our starters Rich and I decided to go for the fillet of lemon sole with home cut chips and  pea custard and the feta and spinach filo parcels with a summer salad, followed by rump of Spring lamb with chorizo potatoes and a fricassee of Spring vegetables. Before all of that we had an amuse bouche to sample.
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
Amusing our Bouche
Our amuse bouche was duck parfait with toasted brioche and caramelised onion marmalade. Technically I would argue this was a lot larger than any amuse bouche I've ever had but it was absolutely lovely. The parfait was super smooth and matched well with the sweet brioche, the marmalade was a great accompaniment as it wasn't too acidic like a lot of onion chutneys and marmalades can be.
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
Last night's news, tomorrow's chip wrappers
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
crispy feta and spinach filo parcels
A bit over keen on the cress sprinkling besides, these were two pretty plates. The lemon sole was perfectly cooked and so light and delicate in flavour, the lemon and herb crumb did not overwhelm it. The filo parcels in my starter were so crispy and were generously filled with the feta and spinach mix. Feta can be a difficult cheese to cook with as the flavour can overwhelm some dishes, for me at least, with the crunch salad this was a lovely fresh tasting Spring dish. 

It was by this point that the restaurant started to fill up, and about 3 metres away there was a table, with a woman on it, with the loudest inside voice I have ever experienced. She wasn't shouting, her natural speaking voice just felt like she was. If I had been party to some salacious gossip from her I might not have minded as much but I got to hear her talk at her parents for the rest of the evening all about electricity bills and how good she was at her job and deserving of the pay rise she had just received. I am pretty sure the whole of the section of the restaurant we were in must have heard everything, there was only peace when she stopped to eat. Not that this was Juniper's fault, I digress away from the tasty meal we were enjoying the main course had arrived and I was ready for some lamb to distract me away from Lady Loud. 
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
rump of Spring lamb
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
up close
Rosemary and lamb belong together, they are like the Scott and Charlene of the meat and herb world. The wafts of the marriage of these two flavours greeted us happily from the plate and we got stuck in right away to this generous main. Rich's lamb was slightly pinker than mine, and I do like pink lamb, but mine still had a rosy hue throughout to satisfy. There was nothing I didn't like about this plate. The lamb was cooked extremely well and finding the nuggets of chorizo in with the potatoes was treasure indeed. By the end of this plate I was feeling really full, I wasn't sure how I was going to get through two more courses. Rich opted for the bakewell tart with vanilla ice cream and Chantilly cream whilst I went for my standard go to, crème brûlée.
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
Bakewell tart

Juniper Restaurant Bristol
Crème brûlée
The bakewell tart could have done with more jam but the pastry was light and crisp and the tart was suitably almondy in flavour to satisfy marzipan fan Rich. There was a lot of sugar on my crème brûlée that had not been caramelised which, not wanting to over sweeten the custard goodness dug out. It was a nicely made brûlée, the strawberries had that lovely summery sweetness which was glorious. I did not quite finish my dessert the portion was pretty big and I was nearing full capacity. Shortly after the cheese arrived, probably my least favourite course of the night but I did discover a gem in one of the cheeses.
Juniper Restaurant Bristol
Cheese plate
The cheese plate arrived looking like the birds eye view of a city centre monument. The cheeses were not mentioned on the menu but all but one were pretty self explanatory in identification. The biscuits were home made but too heavy for me at this stage of the meal as for the cheese the brie was brie and the blue was creamy. The cheddar was a bit dry round the edges, but there was a pepper coated cream cheese, which could have been sheep's cheese, which was rather delicious. I would argue there was no need for a cheese plate and maybe something lighter could have been supplied. However despite this Rich and I really enjoyed the food here it was one of the nicest meals we'd had out in Bristol in a while. The garnishes need to be toned down but the first three courses were particularly tasty and we would return. 

As for service, it was acceptable, fairly hands off but polite. The real thing that Juniper needs is a bit of a spruce up as it does look a little tired in places but you will get a tasty meal with very generous portions in return for your curiosity. Our meal was complimentary but did not affect what was in this review. Juniper's seasonal menu is running all this week should you feel tempted. Check out their menus on their website. Next blog posts will finally cover our visit to London and Maroush for Lebanese and Bone Daddies for ramen.

Thursday 9 May 2013

Friday Evening at StrEAT in Cabot Circus

Last Friday Rich and I were invited to sample various street food vendor's wares at the first StrEAT food collective in Quaker Friars in Cabot Circus. This event will be held every Friday in May from 5-9pm and I would seriously consider getting yourselves down there for some truly wonderful food. In the interests of science it was only fair that we tried to sample as many of the vendors as possible. But this was a struggle as there were quite a a few and the choices were mouthwatering. We did a quick scope of the stands to decide what our first pick would be, Whisk caught our eyes first and we headed over to take a closer look.
Whisk Food Bristol
beer braised brisket
Whisk Food Bristol
16 hour roast pork shoulder
Possibly the best food of the evening was the first we sampled, Whisk cooked up two 'low and slow' options, brisket and pork shoulder. The flavours of each were incredible, served with home made 'slaw and diced cornichons. There were options for sauce toppings as well which complimented the meat beautifully. I cannot enthuse how good this tasted you should get down there over the next couple of weeks and sample it for yourselves.
Asia Pop Bristol
Asia Pop! Sign
Onwards to Asia Pop! With the best sign of the day, no contest. They had wontons and noodles in soup, strawberry mochi and lettuce wraps. I decided to sample one of the lettuce wraps, which was fried pork mince with spices, peas and topped with peanuts and fresh chillis. I waited as it was cooked up fresh to order and wandered around, StrEAT was pretty busy which was great to see as it's the sort of event that is perfect for light summer evenings and bringing many but different food businesses to our attention. We particularly enjoyed the Brazilian beats that floated out over the crowds, really gave a summery party atmosphere to the event.
Asia Pop Bristol
Lettuce wrap
Asia Pop Bristol
Strawberry Mochi
The wrap was delicious and refreshing, a perfect light starter bite especially in the summer. The richness of the pork was cut through by the spicy fresh chillis and the peanut gave it a good extra crunch factor I was really impressed and would have had another but duty called me to another stand to sample. Our third choice was to head over to Chomp, I had heard great things about this business who can resist a sign that beckons to all burger fans? Although the steak and fries option was extremely tempting we decided to share one of their much praised hamburgers and quadruple cooked fries.
Chomp Burger Bristol
Chomp van

Chomp Burger Bristol
Chompers at work
Chomp Burger Bristol
all wrapped up
Chomp Burger Bristol
Chomp Burger
up close and personal
This was a damn good burger, the parmesan mayo was a revelation. The Chomp guys had paid special attention to make sure this burger was big on taste and high on quality. The meat was superb and the relishes on top were wonderful, really emphasised the burger flavour. This was not quite the best burger I have ever eaten but it was definitely the runner up. The chips were equally wonderful, crunchy and well seasoned, burger enthusiasts should get themselves to Chomp as soon as they can.

We were full, extremely full. I didn't even get to try the Coconut Chilli stand with their wonderful smelling koftas, Pizza Monkey and their fresh from the pizza oven, pizzas. I did have room for one last tiny thing though, it was something that smelled so delicious I couldn't resist. Tambo, Peruvian Kitchen was serving up anticucho, Peruvian meat skewered snack, these ones were the most popular type, ox heart. Not being one for offal really I thought, why not they smell great , and bit the bullet.
Tambo Peruvian food
On the grill
Anticucho Bristol
Anticucho (ox heart skewer)
Offered two choices of sauce to go with my skewer, spicy or fresh I opted for both, I was warned the spicy could be pretty hot, although to me it wasn't that hot but definitely delicious. Offal is definitely not something I would normally go for but was pleasantly surprised with how delicious the skewer was. It tasted like lean steak, enhanced by the smoky marinade it was glazed with. I was expecting a strong offal and slightly metallic flavour, this was not remotely the case.  I would urge you all to go outside your comfort zone and try this skewer it will surprise you with how delicious it is. 

It was hard to steer ourselves away from all the other vendors we hadn't tried, only to get stopped by Cupp, the bubble tea specialists. I just couldn't leave without trying one, so settled on coconut with green tea. Really refreshing and I did like the tapioca balls, although I can understand why some people wouldn't. A chewable drink, and my first whole bubble tea, although I have tried a sip of it before. 
Bubble Tea Bristol
caged tea
Bubble Tea Bristol
coconut bubble tea
I took a lot of photos at this event there was so much going on and it is a great event for Bristol. I urge everyone to try and make their way down there this month after work on a Friday, what a great way to ease into the weekend. Check out the StrEAT website for vendor updates.

We were invited as guests to sample the event so the food was free for us but did not mean we were obliged to write a positive review had the food been not up to scratch. The food is all very reasonably priced, most items £6 and under with large portions. I for one hope to go after work again the food is just too good to miss. Now go, what are you waiting for?

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Early Evening Dinner at Nomu

The other week Carla  and I met up at the fairly recent addition to Whiteladies, Nomu. Nomu markets itself as a Japanese cocktail bar and restaurant, there were certainly a hefty list of cocktails on their drinks menu which were highly tempting. As this was midweek though I didn't want to go too crazy so settled for a G&T. It was a bit quiet in Nomu but it was only a Wednesday so Carla and I settled into a corner booth with menus and our drinks. Nomu offer an early bird special, 2 courses for £10 so I went for the edamame and yaki udon, whilst Carla chose the vegetable gyoza and pork with ginger.

Nomu Bristol
Nomu Bristol
vegetable gyoza
The edamame were plentiful, suitably salted and tasty enough for two to pick and nibble on. The vegetable gyoza we found a bit bland and not very well filled but this is something that could easily be improved on and I understand that this is something Nomu are currently working on. The service it must be said was really attentive and considered, the staff were very polite and ready on hand for any requests but not intrusively so.
Nomu Bristol
Yaki Udon
Nomu Bristol
pork with ginger

Our mains were tasty I particularly enjoyed my yaki udon the quantity of chicken and prawns was very generous, I for one can never resist a good plate of noodles. The pork with ginger was suitably gingery and delicate in flavour. So mostly I was impressed with Nomu I hope it starts to get busier because it deserves to do well, it's a great reasonably priced refuel if you are in a rush or relax with a number of cocktails if you are feeling more leisurely. Keep up to date with all things Nomu by visiting their Facebook page.