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Wednesday 26 June 2013

Friday Road Trip to The Swan at Wedmore

Last week I took a day off work as Sarah, Kym and I had been invited to a bloggers lunch by The Swan at Wedmore. As I am car-less, Kym offered to drive us the short distance to Wedmore, out just by Cheddar don't you know? After taking a brief pit stop in Cheddar for some cheese and fudge, the essentials of course, we headed over to the pub. Wedmore is a beautiful village and it suits them that they have a beautiful pub like The Swan to fulfill it's eating and drinking needs.  Also a mini hotel, boasting 6 individually designed bedrooms, so you can make a night of it in style, more on the bedrooms later.  We were greeted by Cassia who does the marketing for The Swan and we sat down to lunch with rumbling tummies and many questions. 
The Swan at Wedmore
The Bar
The Swan at Wedmore
Sneaky menu peek
We chatted about the food, mainly enthusing about our favourites but also about where the produce for The Swan was sourced. The beef is sourced from the Story group who raise traditional slow-growing British breeds they also supply the eggs and chicken to the pub. The pork is even more local reared by Wedmore butcher Jim, a few yards up the road. Basically everything is sourced local or British or made on the premises, it is nice to see such passion going into sourcing products and supporting local businesses.

It was a struggle to decide on just one starter so we decided to share three plates between the four of us and some bread on the side. We picked the home cured duck ham with rhubarb chutney and soft boiled eggs, chargrilled asparagus with Homewood ewe's cheese and piccalilli cauliflower and finally beetroot pakoras with house salad and kohl rabi raita.
The Swan at Wedmore
grilled asparagus with ewes cheese

The Swan at Wedmore
duck ham with rhubarb chutney

The Swan at Wedmore
beetroot pakoras
The Swan at Wedmore
bread and spice crumb dip
The starters were as beautiful as they looked. The duck ham was wonderfully smoky and rich, although I did think it could have been sliced slightly thicker so the rhubarb didn't overwhelm it. I had a particular soft spot for the grilled asparagus, perfectly cooked and was complimented beautifully by the Homewood ewe's cheese which was creamy but not overly strongly flavoured. I also deny anyone who claims to dislike beetroot to not be converted by the pakoras, the cumin and other spices worked brilliantly it was a totally new way, to me at least, of flavouring and cooking beetroot. The fresh bread was wonderfully fluffy and they even had some gluten free bread to cater to Sarah's needs, in fact nearly all the menu options could be made gluten free or substituted for a gluten free alternative. The spiced crumb dip was a great addition and we spent a few moments trying to analyse all the spices it was made up of.

For our mains Kym and I decided to go for the belly of old spot with chorizo, new potatoes, watercress and cauliflower puree, whilst Sarah and Cassia chose steamed pollack with fennel, white wine, wet garlic, Jersey Royals and a seafood sauce. After such a strong start I was really looking forward to my main I took the opportunity to steal a peek at the garden before they arrived and was gloriously rewarded. Had it not been quite so windy out, it would have been the perfect setting for lunch.
The Swan at Wedmore
beautiful garden area
The Swan at Wedmore food
roast belly of old spot
The Swan at Wedmore food pretty it deserved two photos
The Swan at Wedmore food
Sarah's steamed pollock
I can only describe my pork belly as delicious, well not only really but it was absolutely tasty. Though pork belly is a rich cut of meat the sharp tangy lemon and multitude of herbs cut through some of that perfectly cooked richness.  This was a huge main and I couldn't fault it one bit, I would eat this again in a heartbeat although possibly without ordering starters as I was pretty full by the end. Sarah's pollock looked a picture and was eaten with outcries of superlatives a plenty.

Surely we couldn't manage dessert is what I am sure you are all thinking, well you would be sensible and right, unlike us. We were too greedy but when you have Bakewell tart on the menu what do you expect? So Sarah was given the gluten free options and she chose the flourless chocolate cake with cream whilst Kym and I picked vanilla infused rhubarb with shortbread and cream and the aforementioned Bakewell tart.
The Swan at Wedmore food
poached rhubarb in vanilla

The Swan at Wedmore food
flourless chocolate cake
The Swan at Wedmore food
Bakewell tart
Ah the desserts, as delicious as the rest of the meal. In hindsight I should have ordered the rhubarb as it was smaller and lighter, the vanilla in it really came through and made a lovely light Summer sweet. My Bakewell tart was fluffy and perfect but after two courses it was a struggle, the strawberries, which may have been poached were the embodiment of strawberry flavouring and were actually my favourite thing about this dish. 

After a gorgeous lunch we were quickly shown some of the bedrooms at The Swan, should you wish to make an event of the weekend. Like everything else at this place they were also beautiful. It did amaze me how close to Bristol this place was to be honest, I thought it would take a lot longer but it was about 40-45 mins from Whiteladies door to door, plus the pub has some wonderful country walks near it.
The Swan at Wedmore
one of the bedrooms
The Swan at Wedmore
roll top bath fanatics, rejoice (and maybe close the shutters)
We had such a lovely time at The Swan I cannot recommend it enough, pop in for lunch one weekend you will not regret it. I am even thinking of staying here for my mini moon. Check out what The Swan has to offer by visiting their website. We were invited as guests of The Swan but my opinion was not affected by this and my reviews, as always, are totally me.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

A Sunny Saturday Lunch at Bill's

On our last sunny weekend, it does seem like an age ago, mum and I decided to check out a light lunch in Bill's. Bill's opened up on the Triangle a few months ago and I had heard a couple of mixed reviews about the place. Mum had said the Bath branch was tasty, others had said that there wasn't enough varied choice and the prices were questionable. So armed with information and hunger we arrived for an early lunch. The restaurant was a lot larger than I was expecting and although a little dark inside it was nice and airy and full of decorations to entertain the eye. I decided to go for their elderflower cordial, bit of a fan of the old elderflower, and mum had a ginger beer. 
Bill's Restaurant Bristol
Inside Bill's
Bill's Restaurant Bristol
Elderflower Cordial
The elderflower cordial was much more prettily dressed than I was expecting and extra refreshing on a hot day. The weather certainly made us consider our food choices more carefully. We weren't feeling like anything heavy so eventually decided on sharing the mezze board with a side of sweet potato fries. The mezze board was described as a selection of dips, salsa, hummus, babaganouj, marinated olives and halloumi skewers, though you can swap the halloumi for chicken or kofte skewers so we opted for the chicken.

Bill's Restaurant Bristol
mezze board

Bill's Restaurant Bristol
sweet potato fries
Bill's Restaurant Bristol
mezze upclose
A wonderfully bright board arrived at our table, it looked superb and the bread was lovely and warm, sounds obvious but often can be overlooked. Everything was really fresh tasting, mum had never had babaganjouj before and loved it, certainly for me it is the most acceptable form of aubergine, for not the greatest of aubergine fans. The chicken was chunky and juicy and the hummus warming and garlicky. The sweet potato fries were quite nice but in my opinion could have been a bit crispier and needed extra salt. Mum and I definitely had room for pudding so we opted for the peach melba sundae to share.
Bill's Restaurant Bristol
peach melba sundae
The sundae looked a picture and it wasn't as unhealthy as it appeared as instead of ice cream there was sorbet in the layers which made it all the more refreshing. Having said that my favourite part of the sundae was actually the most unhealthy part, the vanilla flavoured piped cream on top, light as air and dangerously moreish.  Generally speaking it was a tasty lunch, I probably wouldn't choose Bill's for an evening meal but for a lunch it is a lovely venue for snacking and catching up for a chat. The prices aren't too bad either for some things, the mezze board was £9.99, having said that the sweet potato fries were nearly £4 which is just a bit silly. To cut to the chase I would return, the service was friendly and efficient, now they just need to do something about the occasional crazy price. To check out what Bill's has to offer visit their website.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Goodbye Dinner at The Thali Cafe

The other week we had to say farewell to Carla for she was leaving Bristol to return to London. So her final meal was booked and she had chosen the Thali Cafe, the Clifton branch. This would technically only be my second visit to a thali, I once went many moons ago to the first cafe in Montpelier and although it was around 6 -7 years ago I remember it being very tasty. So I was pretty excited about making a return visit. The Thali Cafe (well the Clifton one at least) offers five main thali choices and a couple of sides and starters. I was pretty keen to recreate my first experience so I had already decided to have the Northern thali. This is their signature dish a vegetarian curry assortment including a curry with fried paneer.
Thali Cafe Clifton
Menu peek
Thali Cafe Clifton
decision making
Sarah, Rob, Rich and I decided to share some poppadoms and chutneys for our starters and we all amazingly went for different thalis. Rich picked the lamb kofta thali which was the one that almost swayed me, with spiced meatballs, in a coconut, tomato and cinnamon sauce. Sarah and Rob chose the Mogul thali and the Southern thali. With all the aromatic smells wafting round the restaurant our stomachs were practically growling in protest luckily the arrival of poppadoms and chutneys saved us in time.
Thali Cafe Bristol
chutney selection
You kind of expect to have mango chutney as standard when you order poppadoms and to be honest that is what I generally stick to because I am not a fan of lime pickle and slightly unbothered by raita. However The Thali Cafe offers little twists on the classics which were a welcome change. There was a tomato and tamarind one that reminded me of lime pickle but actually nice, slightly tangy but totally moreish. Even the mango chutney had an added zing with some chilli in it for a kick. As you will probably be able to tell we made short work of our poppadoms and chutneys, we were still hungry but we were now able to wait for our mains without wondering whether to steal some of the food on the table next door to us. 
Thali Cafe Bristol
Kofta Thali

Thali Cafe Bristol
Southern Thali
Thali Cafe Bristol
Northern Thali

Excuse the photo quality the light was not great but you get the general gist of what we ate. I sampled some of the sauce from Rich's lamb kofta thali and it was divine, so aromatic and the cinnamon really came through, this is definitely what I will be sampling next time I visit. Rob's Southern thali was a Goan fish curry but the fish had been coated in crispy crumb which made it a little bit different, it also looked really good. The paneer curry in my vegetarian thali was really light and the sauce was yummy I was impressed. However the winner I think for all of us, the one that stole the show, was the lentil dhal it was creamy and so well flavoured it made me want to make dhal at home and eat it more often. The only thing we all weren't keen on was the vegetable, mainly potato dish which I thought was a bit like a saag, it tasted a bit under seasoned.

I cannot wait to return to one of the thali cafes they are a bit different from what the normal curry house  offers and perfect for Summer because the curry is lighter and does not make you feel like you need to snooze immediately afterwards, dare I say it it almost feels like a healthy curry. Also it is the perfect place to feed vegetarians, vegans and gluten free people all together as it offers options for all. It will definitely be one of the options I offer up to my sister's vegan boyfriend when they next visit Bristol for dinner. So if you haven't already visited one of the cafes of this Bristol institution get thee to a thali cafe now. To view menu options and find out more about their origin story visit their website.

Friday 7 June 2013

A Friday Sandwich: Mi Casa at The Big Chill

I had heard some good things about food at The Big Chill, some murmurs about burgers and more recently more vocal praise for the Mi Casa Cantina pop up that had taken residence in The Big Chill kitchen. Mi Casa boasts American style big sandwiches, drawing inspiration from the New York deli's and diners across the US. The menu is a mouthwatering feast of deliciousness you can get the famous Reuben sandwich as well as their own version of a club sandwich. I was starving when I arrived so my work friends and I ordered immediately.  I decided to go for the Cantina Club which was pulled chicken, chorizo, smashed avocado. tomato and chipotle aioli on ciabatta. Although I was tempted by the spicy chicken turbo which had southern fried chicken thighs with hot sauce, salad and blue cheese dressing. 
Mi Casa Pop Up Bristol
menu peek

The Big Chill Bar Bristol
retro record wall 
I was so hungry I was close to chewing the plant in front of me on the table, you know when some lunchtimes you are just inexplicably hungry you have to eat everything in sight? It was one of those days, I did muddle over ordering chips as well but with hindsight I was very glad that I didn't. We weren't waiting too long before our lunch made an appearance, the size of my club sandwich was simply huge, but I felt I was more than up to the task of tackling it. 
Mi Casa Pop Up Bristol
Cantina Club
Mi Casa Pop Up Bristol
Cantina a little closer

Best sandwich I've ever tasted? Quite possibly actually. The chicken was melt in the mouth juicy and the slight heat from the chipotle was perfectly balanced. But I think my favourite part was the chorizo, not just slices of chorizo but it was almost as if chunks of it had been cooked right down to a rich mince. It is quite difficult to describe but it catapulted this sandwich from excellent to heavenly. The spicy chicken turbo which Sharon had without the spicy sauce looked really tasty as well, although the hot sauce on the side (which would have been on the chicken) wasn't quite right but we couldn't put our finger on why. But the fried chicken was crispy and was really complimented by the creamy blue cheese dressing and crisp lettuce. 
Mi Casa Pop Up Bristol
Chicken Turbo (with a side of spicy sauce)

Mi Casa Pop Up Bristol
commit this logo to memory, it's a sign of tastiness
I would love Mi Casa to stay at The Big Chill, or at least not to far from my work or home locales so I can selfishly have one of their amazing sandwiches whenever I want. For some seriously good sandwiches, and I do mean seriously good, seek ye out Mi Casa you will not regret it. To keep updated on all thinks Mi Casa visit their website. Or to find out more about what The Big Chill has to offer, they have a colourful website of their own too.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

Bargain Burgers at Start the Bus

On Tuesdays Start the Bus offers two for one on their home made burgers. The other week we met up with Jayne and Si, who had recommended them highly, after work to try them out. The food is provided by Ruby Jean's Diner, self named 'purveyors of home-cooked Americana' and what a drool worthy menu it is. From New York deli style sandwiches, to fried chicken and banoffee pie it is a feasters dream plus the selection of burger toppings is suitably impressive. After much indecision I decided to go for the burger topped with pulled pork and chilli jam, whilst Rich picked chorizo and halloumi to crown his.
Start the Bus burger
pulled pork topped burger

Start the Bus food
chorizo and halloumi burger

Rich and I were really impressed with the burgers at Start the Bus. Rich's burger in particular was good because the chorizo topping was thick grilled half sausage pieces rather than just a thin round slice of chorizo.   The pulled pork, the in vogue food of the moment, in my burger was a bit mushy but tasted nice but not sure I would choose it again over some of the other options. The burger patties were meaty and flavoursome and held together well which is not something you see in all burgers. Plus skin on chips often taste a lot nicer than regular chips, and these were no exception, great chips and plenty of them. 

So if you find yourself hungry on Corn Street and fancy a burger check out the fare offered by Ruby Jean's Diner at Start the Bus some high quality burgers with a big taste. I for one will be trying the blue cheese, bacon and avocado one next time plus with 2-4-1 on a Tuesday what could be better? Prices start at £8.95 but do not break the £10 mark. Visit the websites for Start the Bus or Ruby Jean's Diner and check out your burger options. Next blogs to come will be on my sandwich at The Big Chill and our dinner at The Thali Cafe.